Library Addition: Wallace Stevens, “Concerning A Chair of Poetry”

I have typed up one of my favorite of Wallace Stevens’s prose pieces and put it in the Library. I have not been able to find this short memorandum anywhere other than in the excellent Library of America volume, Collected Poetry and Prose. I highly recommend owning this book but in the meantime this text should provide us with material for a good discussion. For Stevens, poetry is the medium in which to discuss poetry and, indeed, the most effective parts of “Concerning a Chair of Poetry,” are the lines that are most poetic (the last line, for example). In his prose, however, Stevens’s wording becomes less precise and his arguments become vulnerable; in the simple language of this memorandum, we observe the poet outside of his medium trying to define “the thing itself.” What is most interesting to me is that this is intended to be a practical definition–the piece is a memorandum to Henry Church, a friend of the poet, that outlines what Stevens believes to be the proper steps of creating a Chair of Poetry at a university.

David Feil

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