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The Palm at the End of the Mind: Selected Poems and a Play by [Stevens, Wallace]
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The Palm at the End of the Mind, superbly edited by Holly Stevens, will be the definitive text for students and readers of Wallace Stevens for several decades. Unlike earlier selected volumes, it gives all the major long poems and sequences, and every shorter poem of lasting value. Its arrangement in probable order of composition clarifies the entire shape of Stevens development, particularly by its restoration of crucial late lyrics the poet simply forgot to include in the Collected Poems. Other major benefits given us by the volume include the convenience of having in one place the best of Collected Poems, Opus Posthumous, and the poems heretofore available only in The Necessary Angel. Add to this the powerful early poem 'For an Old Woman in a Wig', the play Bowl, Cat and Broomstick, the prose statement on the poetry of war, the restored lines of 'The Man Whose Pharynx Was Bad,' and a number of vital textual corrections throughout, and some sense of the enormous value of this book will be achieved. Here is the indispensable presentation of a central American poet, the best and most representative of our time."

-- Harold Bloom, Yale University


From the Trade Paperback edition.

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A collection that all the major long poems and sequences, and every shorter poem of lasting value in Stevens' career. Edited by Holly Stevens, it includes some poems not printed in his earlier Collected Works.

Product Details

  • File Size: 925 KB
  • Print Length: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (May 4, 2011)
  • Publication Date: May 4, 2011
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004JHYRQ8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #692,010 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Hongyu Huang on August 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
I was totally ignorant of Wallace Stevens until I came to Yale and took Professor Harold Bloom's course "How to Read a Poem." American poetry, as I, a Chinese student of a non-English major, understood it, is Walt Whitman, T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. In contrast, Wallace Stevens's name was strange to most Chinese intellectuals till recently. Even in his native country his rise to a canonical status was not immediate. Eliot's The Waste Land and Stevens' Harmonium debuted around the same time, but the former took all the spotlight. A mysterious "X" recurs in some of Stevens's letters and poems. This "X" refers to no other than Eliot, which may reflect a degree of frustration on the part of Stevens. Not until his late years did Stevens slowly but surely receive the recognition he deserved. A lagging effect in cross-lingual translation and interpretation may explain Stevens's relative invisibility to the Chinese audience. In addition, Stevens, especially in his later years, was highly meditative and philosophical, at times difficult and obscure, which also affected his accessibility to foreign readers.

Professor Bloom's class first initiated me into the force and beauty of Stevens's poetry. What intrigues me is that Stevens lived a double life. He was an insurance lawyer in profession and a poet in private, and seemed to have no difficulty alternating between the two seemingly incompatible roles. Just like his work is so original that they defy any easy label, Stevens's life is so eccentric that he contradicts the stereotype of what a poet is supposed to be like. This is particularly astonishing in the eyes of the Chinese, for in our tradition commerce and poetry have very little in common.
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Format: Paperback
Wallace Stevens is one of those rare writers who had a golden touch with words -- musical words, spellbinding imagery, and no boundaries to keep anyone from enjoying it. "The Palm at the End of the Mind : Selected Poems and a Play" brings together many of his best works, starting early in his writing career and stretching through the years.

Over his lifetime, Stevens wrote several books of poetry, but his exquisite poems are best taken by themselves: the languid splendour of "Sunday Morning," the spare eloquence of "Man With A Blue Guitar," and the hymnlike grandeur of "Le Monocle De Mon Oncle." ("I know no magic trees, no balmy boughs,/No silver-ruddy, gold-vermilion fruits./But, after all, I know a tree that bears/A semblance to the thing I have in mind.")

This volume also contains his little-known one-act play, "Bowl, Cat and Broomstick." Like many of his non-poetic works, this play deals with the nature of poetry, and is in the form of a dialogue between three seventeenth-century characters. It's part parody, part analysis. And while it's a bit weird, it's certainly worth reading.

Wallace Stevens began publishing poetry at an importance time in writing history, when the older styles were falling away. But instead of ignoring one type of poetry in favor of another, he took the best of all kinds -- his verse combines Victorian opulance with the more modern free-form verse.

Though he isn't as well known as Yeats or Williams, Stevens' poetry is one of the few kinds that is both technically good and emotionally rich. His poetry can be whimsical ("Every time the bucks went clattering/Over Oklahoma/A firecat bristled in the way"), but it is also meditative and philosophical, even tackling the nature of reality.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a review of this particular collection, not of Stevens' poetry; others have done that. I'll just say that T.S. Eliot and W.B. Yeats were once my favorite 20th century poets, but I have come to rate Stevens ahead of both. You could spend the rest of your life on Stevens and die knowing that you did not exhaust what was to be found there.

This compilation of Stevens' poems was selected by his daughter, Holly Stevens. The poems are a selection, not the author's complete works, and they are presented in the order in which they were written. I like the book for the way the poems are presented on the page, with lots of white space around them available for penciling in your own notes; that's something you are likely to do a lot of with Stevens' poetry. (Then changing your mind, erasing, and writing new notes...)

But otherwise the Library of America volume is to be preferred, because it is complete, not a selection, and because the poems are organized by the successive books of poems Stevens published. That edition also contains letters and other ancillary material of interest. But the LOA volume also has very thin pages and little margin space for notations. So, I've got the LOA volume for reference and this "Palm" volume for notations. Works out pretty well, and between the the two you have just about everything.
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Stevens is an uncommon writer in that much of his greatest work he produced late in his lifetime. Perhaps its depth, maturity, and beautiful language result in some part from this fact. His poetry is delightful to read and hear, wrought with powerful imagery and provocative questions about art, the world, and reality. I find myself reading certain poems regularly, over and over again.

The Palm at the End of the Mind is a great collection, though it includes little more than Stevens' selected works - nothing in the way of comments, direction, or information about particular poems nor about Stevens and his views.
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