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Customer reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars

on 27 June 2013
This is a wonderful selection. I was new to WS, but bought this for my husband. We have both enjoyed it very much. The poems in this selection are of course similar in voice, but there is a good variety of composition: some short, some very long, etc. Includes 13 ways to look at a blackbird (my favourite so far), a rabbit as king of the ghosts, as well as many others.
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on 14 February 2015
This is the master of 20th Century poetry in English. Difficult, but profound, complex -one struggles with his absolute claim for the primacy of language and the nature of poetic creation- but ultmately a dandy and a high romantic.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 5 April 2015
All of Stevens' important poems are here: 'Supreme Fiction', 'Key West', 'Sunday Morning', 'Blue Guitar', 'Blackbird', 'Jar', 'Coppery Keen Claws', 'Ice Cream'. They amply demonstrate him a poet like no other whom everyone must try. Insurance salesman by trade ("What, Wally a poet?" exclaimed a managerial colleague on finding out), his poems are hermetic, sonorous and quite beautiful. A philosophical poet by inclination, he is of course not so as a professional philosopher could be: there is no system. He playfully conjures realities into life by wordy fiat, be they mysterious 'The Emperor of Ice Cream" (I scream, Freudians?), 'The Man with the Blue guitar' who is "a shearsman of sorts" and 'The Idea of Order at Key West' which issues in a beautiful verbal music in a which a colourful world is summoned, whimsically into his own quasi-Platonic ideal, built of whimsy in sibillance and internal rhyme, to vanish when the poem is read. Impossible to summarise, hard to characterize, he has no system but can "patch a world quite round"', a world from unsystematic ideas into a series of poems that seem to me species of matchless rhetoric, apropos nothing in this world but like a creation of it. Not so much a poet one likes as loves and, as we know, "a poem must not mean but be" as MacLeish wrote. Brilliant stuff, in the proper sense, the light both illuminates and dazzles. Anyone capable of "Death is the mother of Beauty Madam/Take the moral Law and make a nave of it" has to be worth a try, surely?
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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.
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