SOUVENIRS AND PROPHECIES: The Young Wallace Stevens, 1879-1915 by Holly Stevens

SOUVENIRS AND PROPHECIES: The Young Wallace Stevens, 1879-1915

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Wallace Stevens attended Harvard for three years at the turn of the century; he wrote sentimental, sometimes Keatsian verses for the Advocate, and was befriended by a few members of Harvard's literary pantheon, such as George Santayana. When those years were done his life became toilsome, and the succession of professional failures he endured--in journalism, in the private practice of law--left little leisure for the progress of his poetry. Just how, then, after 1914 and the publication of a few rough-hewn stanzas in Poetry magazine, did Stevens grow to be one of the most original and important American poets of the century? At least one answer can be drawn from his erratic but conscientious early journals, published here for the first time in their entirety and provided with careful collation and commentary by his daughter Holly. The journals demonstrate an acute and unwavering preoccupation with traditional moral problems, and an unchanging, uncompromising attention to the details of his natural landscape wherever he happened to be. Even when he wasn't writing poetry, Stevens took care to note, in his journals and letters to his future wife, the profound impressions that his customary 30-mile rambles made on him. Holly Stevens shows that he used these notes in writing his poems for the rest of his life. As Stevens says in the poem from which the book's title is taken: ""The natives of the rain are rainy men."" Stevens' rain was eloquence.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1976
Publisher: Knopf