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Making the Poem

Stevens’ Approaches

264 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / no illustrations

ebook available

Literary Criticism (20th Century)

  Hardcover / 9780807168943 / June 2018

Over sixty years after his death, Wallace Stevens remains one of the major figures of American modernist poetry, celebrated for his masterful style, formal rigor, and aesthetic investigations of the natural, political, and metaphysical worlds. In Making the Poem, noted Stevens scholar George S. Lensing explores the poet’s progress in the creation of his body of work, considering its development, composition, and reception.
Drawing on little-known sources and nuanced readings of Stevens’ texts, Lensing expands the customary view of the poet’s creative approaches. This wide-ranging study extends from the origins and overlapping themes of well-known poems through the social and political backgrounds that marked Stevens’ work to the prosodic and musical elements central to his style. Making the Poem features a dynamic new reading of the important early poem “Sea Surface Full of Clouds”—viewing it alongside his wife Elsie’s journal describing the sea voyage that inspired the poem—and an extensive, multiperspective treatment of the widely anthologized “The Idea of Order at Key West,” as well as a careful excavation of the poem “Mozart, 1935” in the context of the U.S. Great Depression. Lensing concludes with a discussion of the gradual (and sometimes reluctant) recognition Stevens’ work received from poets and critics in Great Britain and Ireland.

Stemming from decades of research and writing, Making the Poem: Stevens’ Approaches presents a holistic view of his creative achievements and a wealth of new material for readers to draw upon in their future encounters with the poetry of Wallace Stevens.

George S. Lensing is Mann Family Distinguished Professor of English Emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the author of Wallace Stevens: A Poet’s Growth and Wallace Stevens and the Seasons.

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