43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on 25 November 2001
It is Stevens himself who declares, in 'A High-Toned Old Christian Woman', that "Poetry is the supreme fiction". He might have added, therefore, that a collection of poems is the truest anthology, for Stevens' 'Selected Poems' is itself a collection of fine poems and supreme fictions. Representative of Steven's early, middle and late work, the selection includes poems from Harmonium, Ideas of Order, The Man With The Blue Guitar and The Auroras of Autumn, as well as items from his other collections. Indeed, the poet himself made the selection in 1965, and the result is an illuminating and yet balanced poetic content, revealing both its author's earlier verbal ingenuity and his later philosophical rigour. Only the Opus Posthumous is unrepresented, simply because Stevens was still alive when the selection was first printed.
For all the felicity of selection, however, some Stevens readers may be disappointed with the edition's lack of scholarship. Faber appoint no editor to the work, and the shortcomings that result are at best an irritation, and at worst a serious hindrance to the educated or scholarly reader. No poem, for example, is dated, nor is the collection from which each poem is taken indicated. There is also no introduction, no index, nor any annotation. A poet so subtle, difficult and original as Stevens produces work that responds well to detailed critical attention: it is therefore a shame that the edition provides no such analysis.
But Stevens is a fine poet, and this is a fine selection of - and thus an excellent introduction to - his work. Should you, then, wish to appreciate the work of one of the 20th-century's most original poets, this is an excellent edition: should you wish to pursue this intial interest, an edition with more editorial apparatus might be a better way of looking at the blackbird.