The period of 1914-1945 was the time of poetic experimenters such as Ezra Pound, T. S. Elliot, Robert Frost and Wallace Stevens.
Wallace Stevens was born in Pennsylvania, educated at Harvard College
and New York University Law School. He practiced law in New York during
the 1904-1916, the years that saw the flourishing of artistic and
poetic activity there. Having moved to Hartford, Connecticut, he became
an insurance executive and, in private, wrote poetry, eventually
developing his own style.
His poetry weaves extremely intricate and aesthetic images that are
reflected in the fittingly named books: Harmonium, Ideas of Order, and
Parts of a World, and his poems such as Sunday Morning, Peter Quince
the Clavier, and The Idea of Order at Key West. Stevens uses his
writings to study the finesse of imagination, the yearning for
aesthetic form, formulating the belief that the order in art matches
the order in nature.
His vocabulary is opulent and colorful. He can paint a lush tropical
scene with the same finesse that he uses to weave dry, humorous
vignettes. While soaring into intellectual heaven, Stevens masterfully
laughs at popular culture, sophisticated society. He uses exuberant
word play as a musical instrument. Sometimes he surprises readers with
insightful tricks, such as in Disillusionment of Ten O’Clock (1932).
This poem bewails the unimaginative lives of plain white nightgowns
while instilling into the reader’s innerscape a world of vibrant
images. A drunken sailor does end up catching the tigers, at least in
his dream. Stevens shows that the human mind can be one – with the
sailor as well as with the reader – and always find the thirsted-for
His life is worth of close scrutiny for anyone aspiring to be a writer:
he was able to separate the artistic and business activities so
successfully that his associates in the insurance business had no clue
of his poetry, and the artistic world until recently, did not know of