In the newest issue of The Wallace Stevens Journal, a special issue (volume 38, number 2, dated Fall 2014) devoted to Helen Vendler’s career-long interest in Stevens’s poetry, an essay by me appears. Here is a link to a PDF copy of the piece.
I recently re-read Helen Vendler’s 1986 review of Milton Bates’s A Mythology of Self (1985) and Albert Gelpi’s collection of essays (The Poetics of Modernism, 1985) which included Marjorie Perloff on Stevens experience (or inexperience) during World War 2, Michael Davidson’s critique of Stevens as not a prosodic innovator, and Alan Golding on Stevens and Zukofsky. (I have insufficient space here to deal with Vendler’s complex reaction to Perloff’s piece – a topic that should surely occasion another foray into the matter.)
Vendler was in general not fond of the essays collected by Gelpi, but she did admire Milton Bates — whose meticulous book was the first full-length biographical/intellectual/historical reading of Stevens.
When my first book was about to come out, I remember coming to understand there was some puffy critical notion out there of “the first book” against which I would have to contend. I don’t think it’s a codified thing, but it felt like it was something known by people who fashioned themselves as in the know.
The ModPo TAs and I led a 90-minute close reading of two late poems by Wallace Stevens, “The Poem That Took the Place of a Mountain” and “The Plain Sense of Things.” Several participants (who drove up from Washington DC) joined us in the Arts Cafe of the Kelly Writers House, while hundreds joined by webcast. Several people phoned in their comments and questions, while a number tweeted and still others emailed us. We were also thrilled to welcome into the Writers House — by chance — Professor Elisa New of Harvard, a brilliant reader of Stevens and creator of a MOOC on early American poetry (up to Whitman and Dickinson). Lisa’s MOOC, sponsored by EdX, is not available yet, but, we expect, will nicely complement ModPo. The video recording of the session is available above (just click on the image atop) and is also viewable here at YouTube. Please note: the program begins at around 2 minutes into the video file here.
On April 18, 2013, at 12 noon (eastern time), I hosted a live webcast — an open discussion of two poems by Wallace Stevens: “The Plain Sense of Things” & “The Poem That Took the Place of a Mountain.” I was joined by the ModPo TAs. Participants in this session joined a collaborative close reading of the two poems, and had a chance to email questions and/or phone us to ask questions or make comments. Here is a link to the video recor
In August 1971, Philip Whalen performed “Scenes of Life at the Capital,” a 45-minute reading recorded by Robert Creeley who’d brought his tape recorder to the event. In a passage of “Scenes” — it comes to around two minutes of the reading — Whalen responds to Wallace Stevens. Here is that 2-minute passage: MP3.
Each January the people of the Kelly Writers House gather for an event called “The Mind of Winter.” The event begins with a group close reading of “The Snow Man.” Here is a link to the audio recording of the entire program.
On April 29, 1971, Louis Zukofsky gave a lecture on Wallace Stevens, and a reading of Stevens’s and his own poems in honor of Stevens, at the University of Connecticut. This recording has long been available through the Zukofsky PennSound page, and we are, as ever, grateful to Paul Zukofsky for giving us permission to use them for non-commercial, educational purposes (and, as stipulated by Paul, they cannot be used for any other reason). Recently Anna Zalokostas went carefully through the one-and-a-half hour presentation, listening for which poems by Stevens Zukofsky read on that occasion. I was delighted to hear that among these is a beautiful reading of “The Planet on a Table,” a Stevens poem of meta-poetic retrospection. Here are the five poems performed:
reads Wallace Stevens’s “From the Misery of Don Joost” (1:42): MP3