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The Palm at the End of the Mind: Selected Poems and a Play

4.33 of 5 stars 4.33  ·  rating details  ·  1,740 ratings  ·  61 reviews
A collection that all the major long poems and sequences, and every shorter poem of lasting value in Stevens' career. Edited by Holly Stevens, it includes some poems not printed in his earlier Collected Works.
Paperback, 432 pages
Published February 19th 1990 by Vintage (first published 1971)
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"The Idea of Order at Key West." "A Postcard from the Volcano." "The Well-Dressed Man with a Beard." As a demonstration that poetry can combine lavish beauty with the greatest philosophical depth, arguably making it the greatest of the arts, this book alone. Read "Reality is an Activity of the Most August Imagination," a late poem - you'll feel me. One quibble though: it's well-known that Stevens didn't start publishing until he was in his forties, after his career in the insurance business was ...more
The eponymous poem of this collection, Of Mere Being, still gives me chills. I find my favorite poetry is often a set of words or images that I can't quite grasp the meaning of until I have memorized them, at which point some mysterious understanding transpires. This is one of those. The surreal imagery of this utter blank vacuous space in the moments immediately after death, with this distant, all to vivid palm rising out of eternity gives me a strange sense of serenity. But I doubt I will ever ...more
Brandon Van Buskirk
There are many great poems in this book. My favorite poem "Prologues to What is Possible" begins with the line "There was an ease of mind that was like being alone on a boat at sea." This sentence is a challenge to the reader. What I love about it is that Stevens is essentially choosing his audience with this poem. Take the line for granted and you will not understand the poem. There are other whimsical poems in this book that are great as well.
Obfuscation. Delicious prevarication. Obtuse, lyrical, lovely. Wallace Stevens confounds me and yet I cannot help but savor each phrase as it were a small sliver of the sweetest orange. Parakeets! Ice Cream! Snow! Oranges and Coffee!
This may be my greatest read of all time. Wallace Stevens is the best, but he is not for the faint of heart. There's nothing simple about this poetry.
Dec 05, 2008 Mjackman rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: sapheads
Recommended to Mjackman by: syllabus
Forget me reviewing this. I just want to point to this hilarious debate over this book, which I was assigned in college, and append some remarks.


By Jmark2001
If poets aren't interested in being understood, they will have to resign themselves to being read by no one except English Lit drones. There was a time when poetry was so popular in the USA that many daily newspapers had daily poems and the average worker with a

Reading Wallace Stevens I am either mesmerized or bored, and in the latter case find myself thinking that it's like listening to an insurance salesman go on and on, and he was an insurance salesman so maybe that explains it. More likely it's just me, my fickle ear. Regardless, I believe he deserved the Pulitzer and more for the likes of this:

Time is a horse that runs in the heart, a horse
without a rider on a road at night.
The mind sits listening and hears it pass.
It is someone walking rapidly in
Peggy Aylsworth
What didn't I learn from this book? There is no end...and I'm still both learning and being joyfully inspired. Stevens' poetry is without peer to me. As a poet, I go to his work continually to nourish my own imagination and give it permission to fly. His work is distinctive, having many of its roots in French symbolism and surrealism. It's been ignored by some, poets and readers alike, because his work is dense, philosophical as well as filled with quirky humor. It does require repeated readings ...more
This collection, while not as definitive as The Collected Poetry, includes all the major longer poems and many important shorter poems of critical value. Arranged in chronological order by probable date of composition this text provides the reader the possiblility of considering the overall arc of Stevens' career. I find myself dipping into the poems included here time and again and it is difficult to pull myself away. The thoughtful consideration of art and meaning in life is seldom conveyed an ...more
Wallace Stevens has been an important part of my life since I first read my dad's copy of his Collected Poems when I was sixteen... Twenty years later and I always have The Palm at the End of the Mind on my Reading Shelf and read a poem or two at least once every few months... Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird is one of my favorite pieces of writing.

Definitely in my Top Ten Poets: Wallace Stevens, Leonard Cohen, ee cummings, Dylan Thomas, Ginsberg, TS Elliot, Rilke, Robert Browning, Joan K
Feb 01, 2009 Toni rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
No, I have not read the whole book. This is a compilation of his poetry. I understand about 5 percent of what is going on. Even if I understood nothing, I would still love the way he uses words. He writes a lot about poetry and imagination; I always enjoy people who write about writing and words...if they are creative.
In sum: 'Death is the mother of beauty' (from 'Sunday Morning'); 'Each matters only in that which is conceives' (from 'A Pastoral Nun'); 'I was the world in which I walked' (from 'Tea at the Palaz of Hoon'); 'It is not the premise that reality / Is a solid. It may be a shade that traverses / A dust, a force that traverses a shade' (from 'An Ordinary Evening in New Haven'); 'It makes so little difference, at so much more / Than seventy, where one looks, one has been there before' (from 'Long and ...more

The Literal Reaction One of Wallace Stevens's Co-Workers Had When The Other Guys In The Insurance Company Told Him That Stevens Was A Big To-Do Over In The Poetry World:

"Wally? A Poet"!?
Artifice Magazine
A substitute for all the gods
Who knew, he's tops
I bought this very old paperback at an antique store. I was intrigued because the only poetry I knew by Wallace Stevens was 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, and I knew he had written a great deal. This edition was edited by his daughter, and the entries are listed chronologically. The writings begin in 1913 and end in 1955.

Stevens often writes by repeating himself -- words or phrases in the same few lines such as:
from Landscape with Boat -- "He wanted to see. He wanted the eye to see ..." and
This is a review of the sample edition on the Nook. I will eventually download the entire book, but I'm so behind on reading at the moment so I do not want to purchase any books until I finish most of what I already have on my Nook.

This particular Nook sample is very generous, in my opinion. It includes ten poems. Some Nook samples of poetry collections include a half of one poem; some include three or four poems; sometimes you're in for a real treat -- for example, Allen Ginsberg's Collected Po
Christina Rau
Wallace Stevens (not to be confused with the folk singer Cat Stevens, who has since changed his name a second time to Yusuf Islam, after having changed his name from the original Steven Demetre Georgiou) has an interesting take on the world. "Interesting" here means "sometimes indecipherable, sometimes intriguing, and always unique." The Palm at the End of the Mind is a collection of his poems and a play that is over 300 pages.

Instead of reading 300 pages, here's a tip: aside from the popular a
I guess I admire Steven's poetry rather than like it. I have had this book for a time and finally got around to reading it. The poems are presented in chronological order and I found that I liked the earliest ones best. I respect all the awards that the author collected but somehow while appreciating the language, didn't feel any narrative pull in the poems. I will not keep this volume in my library but instead just rely on several poetry anthologies I have to re-visit Stevens when I choose.
My favorite poems include:

Domination of Black
Six Significant Landscapes
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
The Plot Against the Giant
Gray Room
Metaphors of a Magnifico
Life Is Motion
Banal Sojourn
The Man Whose Pharynx Was Bad
The Snow Man
Two Figures in Dense Violet Light
Evening Without Angels
Lytton Strachey, Also, Enters Heaven
A Postcard from the Volcano
Ghosts as Cocoons
Anything Is Beautiful if You Say It Is
Poetry Is a Destructive Force
The Poems of Our Climate
Study of Two Pears
Of Modern Poetry
Matthew Murawski
Mixed bag - it's a thorough collection so the good comes with the bad. It also took me forever to finish (I took maybe a 6-8 month break somewhere in the middle and picked it up again to read on the train). A lot of the longer poems got really heady and turned me off - it felt like he was reaching towards something he couldn't describe but tried to. The result was a kind of purposeful vagary of the poetry. I much preferred the more image and metaphor heavy poems - some were delightful. I liked: ...more
One of the great American geniuses, he used words to express pure thought. Some of his brilliant poems include: Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, The Snowman, and Anecdote of the Jar.
His metaphysics are less interesting than his word play, but this book is smashed full of both. That's a lot of overserious mysticism I had to go through just to reach a brilliant line like "the eccentric souvenirs of human shapes/wrapped in their seemings, crowd on curious crowd".

As to the book itself, the foreword notes that the dates when Stevens wrote most of these poems are fuzzy, but it's too bad that there isn't more notation for the approximate times of each work, particularly since Stev
I think that I love this collection more for the associations I have with it, than with the poems themselves, in all honesty. Id est, my drunken English acquaintance Ed, who, clad in perennial tweed and converse, as a grad student at Trinity, would regale me with the merits of Stevens by the statue of of Kavanagh along the Grand Canal in Dublin or while quaffing numerous ales at my Ringsend flat and ashing his hand-rolled cigarette into my sugar bowl. Ah, memories!
Apr 02, 2009 Dan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
Romantic subjects such as art, reality, imagination and perception from a modernist perspective. The book includes most of Stevens’s greatest poems; those I return to most frequently include “The Snowman,” “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” “The Idea of Order at Key West,” “The Emperor of Ice Cream,” “Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction” and “Bantam in Pinewoods.”
Sep 11, 2007 Jennifer rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: poets and dreamers, also the general populace
Shelves: own, poetry
Wallace Stevens is beyond brilliant. He may be my favorite poet, and The Palm at the End of the Mind contains such amazing stuff. He is lyrical and musical and makes my soul hurt. Almost everything is amazing. In fact, I should reread this soon.

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens is one of my favorite books, but it is rather unwieldy and heavy, perfect for a study but not to carry around. This selection of his works, edited by his daughter, includes all of his truly great poems and is the ideal edition for any who want to read Stevens, say outdoors.
I really liked Stevens from the get-go. His phrases are like the sound of water, lulling and comforting and of the earth. I would not show his poems to my students because if they tried to imitate them, disaster would be almost certain. For personal reading, though, hardly anyone beats him.
Louisa Hall
Of course its one of the best books ever. I can't really add anything, when he's writing lines like "she feels the dark/encroachment of that old catastrophe,/ as a calm darkens among water lights." The one thing I would say is that the book is missing "local objects," which should also be read.
Dec 27, 2007 Tim rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who likes either travel or literature
Along with The Way of Life According to Lao Tzu, this is my daily companion, a book I read in again and again. Stevens' meditations on the relationship of thought and reality are a foundation of my own thinking: "Reality Is an Activity of the Most August Imagination."
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  • The Complete Poems
  • Selected Poems
  • Pictures from Brueghel and Other Poems
  • Selected Poems and Four Plays
  • Complete Poems
  • The Selected Poems
  • Collected Poems, 1920-1954
  • The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems, 1974-1994
  • Selected Poems: Summer Knowledge
  • Selected Poems
  • The First Four Books of Poems
  • Life Studies and For the Union Dead
  • A Shropshire Lad
  • Geography III
  • The Continuous Life
  • The Collected Poems
  • Collected Poems
  • The Collected Poems, 1945-1975
Stevens is a rare example of a poet whose main output came at a fairly advanced age. His first major publication (four poems from a sequence entitled "Phases" in the November 1914 edition of Poetry Magazine) was written at the age of thirty-five, although as an undergraduate at Harvard, Stevens had written poetry and exchanged sonnets with George Santayana, with whom he was close through much of h ...more
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“The exceeding brightness of this early sun
Makes me conceive how dark I have become.”
“Children picking up our bones
Will never know that these were once
As quick as foxes on the hill;”
More quotes…