Thirty-one years after his death, more people than ever are reading the sublime poetry of Wallace Stevens, and his critical reputation—which has grown steadily since 1950, the year he was awarded the Bollingen Prize—has never been greater. But even today, in the minds of many readers who feel perfectly at home with his contemporaries Eliot, Yeats, and Williams, the name of Stevens is, beyond all else, synonymous with enigmatic symbolism and abstruse epistemology. To a dismayingly large number of people, indeed, the most interesting thing about him is not his poetry but the fact that he wrote most of it while serving as vice president in charge of surety claims for the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company.

The more consideration one gives to this disaffection for Stevens’s work among certain types of readers, the more firmly one believes that their problem is not with its difficulty...


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