Wallace Stevens is one of the major poets of the twentieth century, and also among the most challenging. His poems can be dazzling in their verbal brilliance. They are often shot through with lavish imagery and wit, informed by a lawyer's logic, and disarmingly unexpected: a singing jackrabbit, the seductive Nanzia Nunzio. They also spoke--and still speak--to contemporary concerns. Though his work is popular and his readership continues to grow, many readers encountering it are baffled by such rich and strange poetry.
Eleanor Cook, a leading critic of poetry and expert on Stevens, gives us here the essential reader's guide to this important American poet. Cook goes through each of Stevens's poems in his six major collections as well as his later lyrics, in chronological order. For each poem she provides an introductory head note and a series of annotations on difficult phrases and references, illuminating for us just why and how Stevens was a master at his art. Her annotations, which include both previously unpublished scholarship and interpretive remarks, will benefit beginners and specialists alike. Cook also provides a brief biography of Stevens, and offers a detailed appendix on how to read modern poetry.
A Reader's Guide to Wallace Stevens is an indispensable resource and the perfect companion to The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens, first published in 1954 in honor of Stevens's seventy-fifth birthday, as well as to the 1997 collection Wallace Stevens: Collected Poetry and Prose.
"In contrast to guides that provide long, involved commentaries, Cook's incisiveness and brevity are impressive--she sheds light without forcing her interpretation."--Nancy R. Ives, libraryjournal.com
"A Reader's Guide to Wallace Stevens is a solid reference work that will help open doors for a wide variety of readers. It will be especially useful to instructors who are beginning to teach Stevens, providing them with sources, analogues, translations, and other materials that will help students connect with Stevens' work with ease and pleasure."--Janet McCann, The Wallace Stevens Journal
"Although the biographical and critical literature on this demanding modern American poet is extensive, this is a valuable and rich addition to that literature. Cook provides short paragraphs about the poems, each preceded by the poem's publication history. When more than one version of the poem exists, she provides necessary and interesting information about variations."--B. Wallenstein, Choice
"A Reader's Guide to Wallace Stevens is designed for all these types of Stevens's readers--the knowledgeable, the studious, the enthusiastic, the occasional, the curious, the baffled but persistent at all levels."--William Baker, Library Review
"Cook's annotated catalogue of Stevens's gaudy particulars is, like her other recent book on riddle and enigma, mesmerizing . . . . The section-by-section analyses of Stevens's longer poems are invaluable. . . . All the individual glosses . . . are, where relevant, cross-referenced to one another, giving the effect of diagonal threads running under the whole of Stevens's published work. . . . These intra-Stevensian echoes are placed side by side with allusions to literary, philosophical, and biblical history, so that what you end up with is a version of world literature in which Stevens is always nearby, like some exotic common denominator."--Paul Grimstad, Yale Review
Table of Contents:
Ideas of Order 87
The Man with the Blue Guitar 112
Parts of a World 132
Transport to Summer 171
The Auroras of Autumn 237
"The Rock" 279
Late Poems 298
APPENDIX: HOW TO READ POETRY, INCLUDING STEVENS 315
SHORT GLOSSARY 345
SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY 347
INDEX OF TITLES 351