William Carlos Williams reviews Wallace Stevens

By Harriet Staff

The New Republic has posted a review, from 1937, of Wallace Stevens’ The Man with the Blue Guitar and Other Poems, written by William Carlos Williams. Williams begins by praising Stevens’ craft but questioning his politics:

The story is that Stevens has turned of late definitely to the left. I should say not, from anything in this book. He’s merely older and as an artist infinitely more accomplished. Passion he has, too often muted, but not flagrantly for the underdog. No use looking for Stevens there—without qualifications.

And continues on to critique the thoughtfulness of Stevens’ quasi-philosophical verse, which Williams sees as dulling the flashes of brilliance in the poems:

Five beats to the line here, and that’s where the trouble is let in. These five beats have a strange effect on a modern poet; they make him think he wants to think. Stevens is no exception. The result is turgidity, dullness and a language, God knows what it is! certainly nothing anybody alive today could ever recognize—lit by flashes, of course, in this case; for whatever else he may be Stevens is always a distinguished artist. The language is constrained by the meter instead of there being—an impossible peak it may be—a meter discovering itself in the language. We are still searching. Much more might be said were there space for it.

Originally Published: February 24th, 2011