WALLACE STEVENS Biography - Famous Poets and dancers


Biography » famous poets and dancers » wallace stevens


Wallace Stevens (October 2, 1879 - August 2, 1955) was an American Modernist             
Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, Stevens went to college at Harvard, after which           
he moved to New York City and briefly worked as a journalist. He then attended           
New York Law School, graduating in 1903. By 1908 he had been hired as a bonding           
lawyer for an insurance firm, and by 1914 he was the vice-president of the New           
York Office of the Equitable Surety Company of St. Louis, Missouri. When this             
job was abolished as a result of mergers in 1916, he joined the home office of           
Hartford Accident and Indemnity and left New York City to live in Hartford,               
where he would remain the rest of his life. By 1934, he had been named vice-president     
of the company.                                                                           
On a trip back to Reading in 1904, Stevens met Elsie Moll, whom he married,               
after a long courtship, in 1909. The marriage reputedly turned cold and distant,         
but the Stevenses never divorced.                                                         
Stevens got his first book of poetry, Harmonium, published in 1923, and produced         
only two more major books of poetry during the 1920s and '30s. He came out with           
three books of poetry in the 1940s, however, and his best poetry was written             
after he turned 60. It was in this later period that Stevens began to be                 
recognized as a major poet, and he received the National Book Award in 1950 and           
Stevens' subjects are the interplay between imagination and reality, and the             
relation between consciousness and the world. In Stevens, "imagination" is not           
equivalent to consciousness or "reality" to the world as it exists outside our           
minds. Reality is the product of the imagination as it shapes the world. Or               
rather, as the title of one of his late poems puts it, Stevens sees reality "as           
the activity of the most august imagination."                                             
Reality is an activity, not a static object, because it is constantly changing           
as we attempt to find imaginatively satisfying ways to perceive the world.               
Stevens sees the poet (who, as for Wordsworth, is qualitatively the same as               
other people) as continually creating and discarding cognitive depictions of the         
world. These cognitive depictions find their outlet and their best and final             
form as words; and thus Stevens can say, "It is a world of words to the end of           
it, / In which nothing solid is its solid self." His most general and impressive         
statement in this vein comes in a poem called "Men Made out of Words," in which           
he says: "Life / Consists of propositions about life.".