“Wanderer, this is the pre-history of February.
The life of the poem in the mind has not yet begun.”
Sometimes I’ll be writing along on my thesis and Stevens does this Whitman-thing where I’m pretty sure he’s talking only to me, now, and knows, and stops with me.
I The Sonnet With The Diamond Ring
II The Large Blue Sonnet
III The Sonnet With Two Voices
IV The Little Old Sonnet Carved in a Bottle
—Wallace Stevens’ writing notebook, 1915[?]
"What our eyes behold may well be the text of life but one’s meditations on the text and the disclosures of these meditations are no less a part of the structure of reality."
— Wallace Stevens, “Three Academic Pieces”
"Their [poets’] words have made a world that transcends the world and a life livable in that transcendence."
— Wallace Stevens, “Effects of Analogy”
"It seems that poetic order is potentially as significant as philosophic order. Accordingly, it is natural to project the idea of a theory of poetry that would be pretty much the same thing as a theory of the world based on a coordination of the poetic aspects of the world. Such an idea completely changes the significance of poetry. It does what poetry itself does, that is to say, it leads to a fresh conception of the world. The sense of this latent significance exists. Many sensitive readers of poetry, without being mystics or romantics or metaphysicians, feel that there probably is available in reality something accessible through a theory of poetry which would make a profound difference in our sense of the world."
— Wallace Stevens to Delmore Schwartz, 26 April 1948
"The word for all this is maniement: I don’t mean a mania of manner, but I mean the total subjection of reality to the artist. It may be only too true that Van Gogh had fortuitous assistance in the mastery of reality. But he mastered it, no matter how. And that is so often what one wants to do in poetry: to seize the whole mass of everything and squeeze it, and make it one’s own."
— Wallace Stevens to Henry Church, 9 November 1943
"Now my flowers are all in milliner’s windows & in tin-cans on fifth-story fire-escapes."
— Wallace Stevens, 4 July 1900
"Keep up your friends, walk, read, work at home—learn to make your own life."
— Wallace Stevens to Elsie Moll, 26 March 1909
"The air was to me what cream is to peaches or oatmeal."
— Wallace Stevens to Elsie Moll, 15 February 1909
"You are so much a part of myself. It is as if we were the same person, only that you are the brighter part."
— Wallace Stevens to Elsie Moll, 1908
"I write poetry because it is part of my piety: because, for me, it is the good of life."
— Wallace Stevens to Hi Simons, 6 September 1944
"I think only too often that what we constantly need is a fresh start—a fresh start every day, like a clean shirt."
— Wallace Stevens to Henry Church, 27 August 1943
"The belief in poetry is a magnificent fury, or it is nothing."
— Wallace Stevens to Henry Church, 30 March 1943
"Sappho is like apples."
— Wallace Stevens, 26 July 1906