Wallace Stevens Guide Questions
1. Identify or explain the following references and terms used in the Stevens poems: a. Peter Quince b. clavier c. anecdote d. slovenly e. Key West f. artificer
2. How does Stevens develop parallels between music, sensuality, and beauty in “Peter Quince at the Clavier”? How does he use musical effects within the poem?
3. How does he link different art forms in this poem?
4. What does the poem say about permanence and art?
5. How is the jar in “Anecdote of the Jar” different from its surroundings? What effect does the jar’s placement have upon the “slovenly wilderness”?
6. Stevens’ poem begins and ends with its setting, Tennessee. Discuss why Stevens might have chosen this place.
7. What relationships does “The Anecdote of the Jar” suggest exist between art and nature? Consider, for example, what happens to the landscape in the poem after the jar is placed on the hill.
8. In what sense might this poem be regarded as an anecdote about the power and limitations of art and nature?
9. What does the poem say about the importance of establishing a point of view for the imagination to take toward reality?
10. Describe the aesthetic concepts developed in “The Idea of Order at Key West.” What relationship does Stevens suggest exists between a natural setting and the uses made of that setting by made “objects” of various sorts? What effect does the singer have upon the seaside setting?
11. “The Idea of Order at Key West” contains two poems or singers: the woman who sings and the poem's speaker. Analyze the relationship that exists between the two of them.
12. The poets in this unit all also worked in other fields besides poetry. What were those fields, and how, if at all, do you think their poetry was influenced by their other areas of interest?