New Volume of Wallace Stevens Poetry

Helen Vendler in the NYT calls the Selected Poems the volume of Stevens we have long needed”:

In 1954, Stevens allowed Alfred Knopf to bring out his “Collected Poems” in celebration of his 75th birthday. Less than a year later, Stevens died, and although a few late poems appeared posthumously, it was by the “Collected Poems” that we knew him. The Library of America, in 1997, gave us all of his poetry and some of his prose, but we have long needed, and now possess, through the unerring taste of John N. Serio — editor of The Wallace Stevens Journal and “The Cambridge Companion to Wallace Stevens” — a genuine “Selected Poems.” What has been omitted? The juvenilia, the unpublished poems of unhappy love, the less interesting verbal experiments and a few of the more difficult lyrics that might turn away beginners. Serio, with distinct courage, has chosen to include most of Stevens’s major sequences, declaring, by this act, that Stevens would not be Stevens without them.

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This doesn’t make sense to me:
“Serio, with distinct courage, has chosen to include most of Stevens’s major sequences…”
Wouldn’t it be more courageous (which is not to say a better choice) NOT to include Steven’s major sequences?

Helen Vendler was also included in a scholarly book of criticism that Serio edited. Of course, this isn’t mentioned anywhere on the Times’ website.

Somehow I think Helen Vendler’s professional life could survive a negative review of John Serio’s selection. I don’t think the Times needed to mention that. (Indeed, one could argue that Vendler was helping out Serio by writing for that collection, so she’d be even more free at this point to criticize his choices if she thought it necessary.)
As for the “courage” line, Stevens’ major sequences are very long, and so it’s tempting as an editor not to include them in a book with any page constraints.
And lest anyone think me a Vendler apologist, I thought this was a really subpar piece from her. The only quotation of the poetry from any length is from “Red Loves Kit”? And the piece is oddly tendentious and feels cut and pasted from other writings, and not very particular at all the specific volume under review.
She’s generally terrific on Stevens, and a good reviewer, so this was disappointing.


The Surrender is Veronica Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning how she embraced her true gender.


Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

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3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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