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Wallace Stevens Speaks to Our Time

You’ve seen the titles of many internet “posts,” “articles,” and “think-pieces”:

“The Ten Most Overrated Writers”
“Why Terrence Malick Isn’t as Good as the Critics Think”
“James Salter: “It’s hard to think of any other women on the spur of the moment here”
“Why Stephen King Hates The Shining
“Thirteen Ways of Looking at Wallace Stevens’s Racism”
“Who in Academia is Afraid of Criticizing Virginia Woolf?”

Wallace Stevens’s correspondence with José Rodríguez Feo, a Cuban editor, translator, and critic nearly forty years younger than him, is certainly the most unlikely, but also maybe the richest in the The Letters of Wallace Stevens. Stevens spoke to Rodríguez Feo about many things he would often not touch when others queried, especially his views on his contemporaries.

On May 23, 1947 Stevens wrote to Rodríguez Feo:

I did not see Time magazine, but from what you say gather that someone has taken a crack at [T.S.] Eliot. Someone takes a crack at everybody sooner or later: not only at everybody but at everything. In the long run, as Poe said in one of his essays which nobody reads, the generous man comes to be regarded as the stingy man; the beautiful woman comes to be regarded as an old witch; the scholar becomes the ignoramus. The hell with all this. For my own part I like to live in a classic atmosphere, full of my own gods and be true to them until I have some better authority than a merely contrary opinion for not being true to them. We have all to learn to hold fast.
Yours very truly,
Wallace Stevens*


First posted: Monday, June 3rd, 2013.

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