Cite

Stevens, Wallace

Stevens, Wallace, 1879–1955, American poet, b. Reading, Pa., educated at Harvard and New York Law School, admitted to the bar 1904. While in New York, he mingled in literary circles and published his first poems in the magazine Poetry. Moving to Connecticut, he was associated after 1916 with the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company, and from 1934 until his death he served as its vice president. A master of exquisite, gravely lyrical verse, elegant in form and style, Stevens was concerned with creating some shape of order in the world's slovenly wilderness of chaos and with creating a life unsponsored by God but enriched by language and the imagination. These ideas are expressed in his earliest volume, Harmonium (1923), which contains many of the best known of his poems, including Sunday Morning, in which a woman stays home from church and the spiritual remains, without God, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, and The Emperor of Ice Cream. His ideas are developed subsequently in Ideas of Order (1936); The Man with the Blue Guitar (1937); Parts of the World (1942); Transport to Summer (1947), which includes the long poem Notes toward a Supreme Fiction, in which Stevens elaborates on the poet's role in creating the fictions necessary to transform and harmonize the world; The Auroras of Autumn (1950); The Necessary Angel, essays (1951); and Opus Posthumous (1957). His Collected Poems (1954) was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

See his Collected Poetry and Prose, ed. by F. Kermode and J. Richardson (1997); letters, ed. by H. Stevens (1966); biographies by H. Stevens (1977), J. Richardson (2 vol., 1986–88), and P. Mariani (2016); studies by H. Vendler (1969), H. Bloom (1980), and E. Cook (2009).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: American Literature: Biographies