The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens
Published by Alfred A Knopf, inc. in 1954
A brief look through The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens, First Edition, offers some subtle insights into the trajectory and magnitude of the career of one of America’s most widely respected poets. The dust jacket photo alone indicates that Wallace Stevens was a revered figure in his field. He cuts an impressive figure, seated at the window in a well-tailored suit, gazing off into the distance, presumably dreaming up a new line of poetry.
The photograph, shot in black and white, projects an air of nostalgia that is appropriate for the occasion, as the publisher’s note indicates that this collection of works is in honor of Stevens’ 75th birthday. This unique occasion for a book’s creation also enhances the reader’s experience by offering the significant body of work of a poet nearing the end of his career. By reading the book cover to cover, the reader gets a cohesive idea of Stevens’ perspective and stylistic sensibilities as he evolves throughout life. Certainly, an interesting experiment could be made out of the side by side analysis of Stevens’ first published poem, and his last.
Some insights regarding Stevens’ fan base can also be deduced from the publishers note in the book. This particular copy of Collected Poems is number 574 out of 2500 copies. The fact that a fairly small number of books were printed indicates that the book will be ‘medium rare,’ to use a class term. This could mean that Stevens fan base is faithful enough to track down a collectors edition of his work, but perhaps not so widely prevalent that it behooves publishers to produce the book en masse.