Wallace Stevens: Images and Judgments

Wallace Stevens: Images and Judgments

Wallace Stevens: Images and Judgments

Wallace Stevens: Images and Judgments

Excerpt

John J. Enck points out, in the pages which follow, that in the little we know of Wallace Stevens' life, one fact invariably conditions a reader's response to his poetry: Stevens was vice president of a Hartford insurance company. I can't find any reference to this in Yeats, who might have found it an adaptation of the anti-self. Stevens himself tried to play down his "double life" and once said, "I prefer to think I'm just a man, not a poet part time, businessman the rest." Apparently he succeeded in keeping his two worlds separate, for he didn't mix his poetic friends with his business friends; it seems that the latter knew very little about Stevens' literary career, or at least didn't realize how seriously he was taken in his other world. Such matters will certainly be cleared up in the critical biography on which Samuel French Morse has been working for some years; Mr. Morse knew Stevens and his family and has access to the necessary papers. There will probably be no earth-shaking revelations, but Mr. Morse will undoubtedly define the boundaries between Stevens' two lives.

Just now, it is amusing to note how smoothly Stevens' political ideas fitted in with those of the stereotype of a high-ranking executive. William York Tindall tells us that "Stevens was a Republican, a Taft Republican, who thought Eisenhower a dangerous radical." But if there was a split between Stevens the businessman and Stevens the avant-garde poet (or just being a poet at all), it didn't . . .

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