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4.52 of 5 stars 4.52  ·  rating details  ·  337 ratings  ·  21 reviews
Wallace's best poems, contained within this collection, have been described as the work of someone sympathetic, magnanimous, brightly and deeply intelligent.
Paperback, 160 pages
Published May 1st 2001 by Faber & Faber (first published 1923)
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From an email to a friend the morning I finished the book:

" I love that his syntax is just a little skewed so that you're knocked off balance initially, but once you get to the end of what you're reading it's a little like you've been listening to the dialect of a particular mind. I LOVE that he completely upends these sort of grand Romantic ideals of poetry (LOVE! DEATH! THE MEANING OF LIFE! THE ABSOLUTE GOODNESS OF NATURE! REVOLUTION!
"... First Crispin smiled upon
His goldenest demoiselle, inhabitant,
She seemed, of a country of the capuchins,
So delicately blushed, so humbly eyed,
Attentive to a coronal of things
Secret and singular. Second, upon
A second similar counterpart, a maid
Most sisterly to the first, not yet awake
Excepting to the motherly footstep, but
Marvelling sometimes at the shaken sleep.
Then third, a thing still flaxen in the light,
A creeper under jaunty leaves. And fourth,
Mere blusteriness that gewgaws jollified,
i came across the first edition of this book with the multi-patterned boards in a library. sitting on the shelf next to criticisms. holding it and looking at the cover, it is a pastel rainbow. and turning it in your hand, to the spine with the paper label that reads harmonium makes you stop for an instant. on the word harmonium for sure. but more than that. in a stack in the library with metal shelves. the weight of the thing struck me. it was so so light. if it werent for the patterned boards a ...more
Andrea Riley
even though the man can create an image...he still is a racist and classist.
Darran Mclaughlin
I remember straining my brain in my American Literature class at university struggling to comprehend the meaning of Stevens poetry. I now think I might have been wasting my time because I no longer think that poetry needs to 'make sense' or have a clear and comprehensible theme. I think I may have had this revelation when I realised you don't need to understand what's going on in David Lynch's film Mullholland Drive. Wallace Stevens is a great Modernist poet. He poetry is ebuliant, sensual, inte ...more
Ryan Bollenbach
Wallace Stevens was a literary explorer, and Harmonium, his first volume of poetry, is like taking his guided tour of the moon: Wallace Stevens marches you out of the space ship, quickly rattles off some facts about the moon, then says "that's it for the boring part, now everybody jump!"

And you do. You begin to float away. You are scared and confused. You start screaming. Wallace only laughs. Then you turn a complete 360, expecting to see vacuum of space, but you see just how huge and blue the
AE Reiff
Anthropologies of the English.

Stevens' Collected Poems replaces the original publications. He wanted the whole to be a Harmonium like Whitman wanted his whole to be Leaves of Grass. Holding the Collected in your hand it's a little hard to swat a fly. A good comparison to the first Harmonium is Swampy Cree Tales, where Howard Norman does for the Cree what Stevens does for the Caucasoid. Who is this mysterious being, what are its underlying beliefs and folkways? You think you know but you don't. C
Harper Curtis
Great book. Great Poet. Get the Collected Poems, where you will find all of the poems in Harmonium, and more.

That being said, many of Stevens's most famous (and best loved) poems are here in Harmonium: Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, The Snow Man, The Emperor of Ice-Cream, Sunday Morning, Anecdote of the Jar, ... and more.

Here is the eighth stanza of "Le Monocle de Mon Oncle":

Like a dull scholar, I behold, in love,
An ancient aspect touching a new mind.
It comes, it blooms, it bears its f
"She says, 'But in contentment I still feel / The need of some imperishable bliss.' "

I've read 'Sunday Morning' about once a month, usually on Sunday afternoons, since I first discovered it through a Library of America 'story of the week' email. I wasn't disappointed by the rest of the collection. Anecdote of the Jar and Of the Surface of Things and The Curtains in the House of the Metaphysician and Tea at the Palaz of Hoon and Peter Quince at the Clavier stood out to me as well.
Jul 13, 2013 Calvin added it
Shelves: poetry
There was a period in the mid 90s I considered Stevens damn near a god where writing poetry was concerned-he may have been the same as an insurance executive but I really cant say.

It calls to mind the great Mark Van Doren review of the work in 1923 "entative, perverse, and superfine; and it will never be popular".

Damn good stuff if you like your poetry requiring you to work a bit.
"13 Ways of Looking At a Blackbird" was a huge game-changer for me, as it is for everybody, evidently. I was reading some rules for submission to some publisher and it had a specific rule, 1 among maybe 5, that you couldn't write "X ways of Ying at Z". So I guess that gives some idea of how big this stuff is in an outside-the-self sense of it, as if that meant anything.
Gerry LaFemina
There's so much to appreciate about Stevens, so much beauty to these lines, so much joy and whimsy with language, yet the complicated diction, the emotional distance from the subject matter, always leaves me feeling like Stevens is cold and I prefer my poems warm.
Apr 27, 2008 Christine rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Christine by: Gram :)
This little book of poems was my best friend when i was traveling alone for a month. It talked to me and I talked to it and we shaped each other. It fell apart in the end and I then graduated to a complete works. Stevens is my favorite american poet.
A necessity for anyone who calls themselves a poet.

Note to self: this collection contains a poem called "Tattoo."
Ash Vandelay
Beautiful and mysterious collection of modern poetry. I loved this emotional and intellectual experience.
What an amazing accomplishment of a first book. Instant classic.
The Snowman and Sunday Morning are the stand-outs for me.
Should have been called Snore-onium. Hey-o!
Jul 22, 2008 Eric marked it as to-read
yes yes yes!
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  • The Bridge: A Poem
  • North of Boston
  • Selected Poems
  • Geography III
  • The Wind Among the Reeds 1899
  • Spring and All
  • Praise
  • The End of Beauty
  • The Maximus Poems
  • Houseboat Days
  • Sonnets to Orpheus
  • Personæ: The Shorter Poems
  • Cuttlefish Bones
  • The Branch Will Not Break
  • The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You
  • Trilogy: The Walls Do Not Fall / Tribute to the Angels / The Flowering of the Rod
  • 77 Dream Songs
  • Winter Stars
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
More about Wallace Stevens...
The Collected Poems The Palm at the End of the Mind: Selected Poems and a Play Stevens: Collected Poetry and Prose (Library of America #96) The Necessary Angel: Essays on Reality and the Imagination Opus Posthumous: Poems, Plays, Prose

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“I still feel the need of some imperishable bliss.” 15 likes
“Of the Surface of Things

In my room, the world is beyond my understanding;
But when I walk I see that it consists of three or four
Hills and a cloud.”
More quotes…