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Making Sense of Wallace Stevens (With Help From Some Experts)

By the Branta Webcrawler • Feb 29th, 2012 • Category: Editor's Picks, Essays, Poetry, Travel

Right, Wallace Stevens in 1951. Left, the first few lines of Stevens's
Right, Sam Falk/The New York Times; left, Andrew Sullivan for The New York Times
Right, Wallace Stevens in 1951. Left, the first few lines of Stevens’s “Thirteen Ways of
Looking at a Blackbird,” with the Hartford insurance company, where he worked, in the background.

by Jeff Gordinier / New York Times

As I explore in this weekend’s Travel section, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Wallace Stevens made a comfortable living as an insurance executive in Hartford. Many of his poems surfaced in his mind as he ambled along the sidewalks of Connecticut’s capital on the way to his office.

When Harold Bloom, the Yale professor and 81-year-old lion of American literary scholarship, was a 17-year-old freshman at Cornell University, he took a trip to Connecticut to experience an encounter with Stevens.

One day in 1947, Stevens was scheduled to do a reading at the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences in New Haven. Mr. Bloom had become so enamored with the poet’s mysterious, mesmerizing work that he found his way to the gathering. Mr. Bloom did not intend to talk to Stevens — “I wanted to bask in the presence,” the professor told me on the phone recently — but fate led him into a conversation with the Hartford insurance man, who was nursing a martini.

read the rest of this piece at The New York Times

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