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Out of the Lock-Up

Michael Wood: Wallace Stevens, 2 April 1998

Collected Poetry and Prose 
by Wallace Stevens, edited by Frank Kermode and Joan Richardson.
Library of America, 1032 pp., $35, October 1997, 1 883011 45 0
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... Asked in 1933 what his favourite among his own poems was, Wallace Stevens said he liked best ‘The Emperor of Ice-Cream’, from Harmonium (1923). The work ‘wears a deliberately commonplace costume’, Stevens said, ‘and yet seems to me to contain something of the essential gaudiness of poetry ...

Saved for Jazz

David Trotter, 5 October 1995

Modernist Quartet 
by Frank Lentricchia.
Cambridge, 305 pp., £35, November 1994, 0 521 47004 8
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... to Frank Lentricchia’s study of four Modernist poets: T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Ezra Pound and Wallace Stevens. For a start, it’s a book about poets which doesn’t seem much interested in poems. Lentricchia has written a lengthy chapter on each member of his quartet. Yet Eliot is represented by ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ and The ...

For a Few Dollars More

Frank Kermode, 18 September 1997

Frozen Desire: An Inquiry into the Meaning of Money 
by James Buchan.
Picador, 320 pp., £17.99, September 1997, 0 330 35527 9
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... I have no life except in poetry,’ runs an aphorism of Wallace Stevens; but in another he says ‘Money is a kind of poetry,’ so the fact that he spent his working life as vice-president of a large insurance company did not invalidate the claim. It is plausible enough that money, with all its promises of pleasure, the anxieties it brings by being elsewhere when needed, the care one is expected to take to prevent it from disappearing unexpectedly, and, I suppose, the delight to be had in simply making it, has a certain relationship with poetry ...

On Nicholas Moore

Peter Howarth: Nicholas Moore, 23 September 2015

... venue for Dylan Thomas and the New Apocalypse poets, but his real coup had been to get several Wallace Stevens poems published in Britain, much to Stevens’s pleasure. Meanwhile, his own poems kept coming, and by 1944 a Selected, The Glass Tower, came out, expensively illustrated by Lucian Freud. He got married to ...

Snap among the Witherlings

Michael Hofmann: Wallace Stevens, 22 September 2016

The Whole Harmonium: The Life of Wallace Stevens 
by Paul Mariani.
Simon and Schuster, 512 pp., £23, May 2016, 978 1 4516 2437 3
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... every day I like an egg and some tea but most of all I like to talk about me. The American poet Wallace Stevens liked his tea – he took to it in connoisseurship and prudence, ‘imported tea’ every afternoon, ‘with some little tea wafers’, partly in order to ease himself off martinis (Elsie, his ‘Pam’, disapproved of his drinking) – but ...

America

Frederick Seidel, 4 February 2016

... Hemingway and Wallace Stevens got in a fight, Drunken fisticuffs in Paris over who was right. En garde! Put up your dukes! Then one of them suddenly pukes. The moon turned into the sun overnight. Pound isn’t on Mount Rushmore yet. Support to put Pound there is hard to get. Add Ezra Pound to Mount Rushmore! Add his face to the other presidents! Let South Dakota hear his antique I’m-reciting-poetry voice ...

Inky Pilgrimage

Mark Ford, 24 May 2007

The Contemplated Spouse: The Letters of Wallace Stevens to Elsie 
edited by Donald Blount.
South Carolina, 430 pp., £30.95, January 2006, 1 57003 248 3
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... who had just dedicated to him his longest poem, ‘Notes toward a Supreme Fiction’, ‘that Mrs Stevens has had an important part to play in the poetry of Wallace Stevens.’ This was in 1943, by which time Mr and Mrs Stevens had been living together in marital discord for more ...

What became of Modernism?

C.K. Stead, 1 May 1980

Five American Poets 
by John Matthias, introduced by Michael Schmidt.
Carcanet, 160 pp., £3.25, November 1979, 0 85635 259 4
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The New Australian Poetry 
edited by John Tranter.
Makar Press, 330 pp., £6.50, November 1979
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Carpenters of Light 
by Neil Powell.
Carcanet, 154 pp., £6.95, November 1979, 0 85635 305 1
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Mirabell: Books of Number 
by James Merrill.
Oxford, 182 pp., £3.25, June 1979, 0 19 211892 7
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The Book of the Body 
by Frank Bidart.
Faber, 44 pp., £4.50, October 1979, 0 374 11549 4
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Skull of Adam 
by Stanley Moss.
Anvil, 67 pp., £2.50, May 1979, 0 85646 041 9
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Poems 1928-1978 
by Stanley Kunitz.
Secker, 249 pp., £6.50, September 1979, 0 436 23932 9
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... different, are unimaginable without Pound, early Eliot, William Carlos Williams and perhaps Wallace Stevens as forerunners. This is the main stream of modern American poetry. In England the picture is very different. Pound is grudgingly acknowledged, distrusted, kept at a distance. Eliot holds his place, but not the revolutionary Eliot. Eliot ...

Facts and Makings

John Bayley, 21 February 1980

Moortown 
by Ted Hughes.
Faber, 176 pp., £5.25, October 1980, 0 571 11453 9
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Selected Poems 1955-1975 
by Thom Gunn.
Faber, 131 pp., £4.50, October 1980, 0 571 11512 8
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Collected Poems 1942-1977 
by W.S. Graham.
Faber, 268 pp., £8.50, November 1980, 0 571 11416 4
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... it is the ‘description of a place rather than the place itself’. For a post-romantic poet like Wallace Stevens, that is the place where poetry has to live. The poet has here all the blank misgivings of a creature ‘moving about in worlds not realised’: indeed, this fact becomes the poetry’s subject and raison d’être. ...

On not liking Tsvetaeva

Clarence Brown, 8 September 1994

Marina Tsvetaeva: Poetics of Appropriation 
by Michael Makin.
Oxford, 355 pp., £40, January 1994, 0 19 815164 0
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Tsvetaeva 
by Viktoria Schweitzer, translated by Robert Chandler, H.T. Willetts and Peter Norman.
Harvill, 400 pp., £20, December 1993, 0 00 272053 1
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...                               One woman Makes the rest look down. Wallace Stevens I’ve never much liked Tsvetaeva. A churlish way to begin: I do so simply because I think that, in not liking her very much, I am at one not only with much of her posterity but with almost all her contemporaries ...

Erasures

Mark Ford: Donald Justice, 16 November 2006

Collected Poems 
by Donald Justice.
Anvil, 289 pp., £15, June 2006, 0 85646 386 8
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... Words by Weldon Kees’, ‘Variations on a Theme from James’, ‘After a Phrase Abandoned by Wallace Stevens’, ‘Variations on a Text by Vallejo’, ‘A Variation on Baudelaire’s “La Servante au grand coeur”’. ‘American Scenes (1904-1905)’ is quarried almost entirely from Henry James’s account of his return to his homeland and the ...

Vendlerising

John Kerrigan, 2 April 1987

The Faber Book of Contemporary American Poetry 
edited by Helen Vendler.
Faber, 440 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 571 13945 0
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Selected Poems 
by John Ashbery.
Carcanet, 348 pp., £16.95, April 1986, 0 85635 666 2
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The Poetry Book Society Anthology 1986/87 
edited by Jonathan Barker.
Hutchinson, 94 pp., £4.95, November 1986, 0 09 165961 2
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Two Horse Wagon Going By 
by Christopher Middleton.
Carcanet, 143 pp., £5.95, October 1986, 0 85635 661 1
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... as long ago as 1915 but because it puts a tap-root deep into Romanticism. Including a dozen Stevens texts pre-dating the Pisan Cantos and Paterson, while excluding Pound and Williams, the book seems more atavistic than Contemporary, and slanted into bias. Nothing in the objectivist or projective line is included. Olson is rejected, along with Dorn. A ...

First Pitch

Frank Kermode: Marianne Moore, 16 April 1998

The Selected Letters of Marianne Moore 
edited by Bonnie Costello and Celeste Goodridge et al.
Faber, 597 pp., £30, April 1998, 0 571 19354 4
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... would have irritated Marianne Moore, who repeatedly insists on the virtue of accuracy, whether in Wallace Stevens’s poems or in Ralph Kirkpatrick’s harpsichord playing (‘gossamer precision’) or, indeed, in translation, at which she showed herself to be exceptionally good. Still, her editors have, as they claim, fulfilled Eliot’s 1959 prediction ...

At the RA

Jeremy Harding: Richard Diebenkorn, 6 May 2015

... with work by several artists, including Willem de Kooning and Jim Dine, as well as a selection of Wallace Stevens with a frontispiece by Jasper Johns; 1992 saw an edition of Kaddish, White Shroud and Black Shroud with lithograph portraits by Kitaj. Diebenkorn’s Yeats, which came out between the Stevens and the ...

Oldham

Frank Kermode, 22 May 1980

The Reign of Sparrows 
by Roy Fuller.
London Magazine Editions, 69 pp., £3.95, February 1980, 0 904388 29 8
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Souvenirs 
by Roy Fuller.
London Magazine Editions, 191 pp., £4.95, February 1980, 0 904388 30 1
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... poetry, working on it, will not quite destroy it; it makes the visible a little hard to see, as Wallace Stevens, early admired by Fuller, once remarked. Or, in another favourite Fuller locution, it ought to be not unimplicit, which doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be clear. I particularly like a poem in Buff, the volume of 1965, about a little ...

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