Thursday, June 13, 2013

Jun 13 (1950) Surety Bonds Authority Wallace Stevens Writes to His Editor; "I must drink more champagne"

Wallace Stevens

On this day in 1950, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Wallace Stevens wrote to his editor Barbara Church.

Stevens was a unique poet, though he refused to concede that there was anything unusual about his dual role as an insurance executive. At the time of his death in 1955, he was not only one of the leading poets of the English-speaking world, but also the foremost American authority on surety bonds.

Rather than resent having a job that took him away from his poetry, he seemed to cherish it. Even after winning the Pulitzer Prize, he turned down the Charles Eliot Norton professorship of poetry at Harvard in order to remain the insurance company’s vice-president.

In a letter written on this day five years before his death, he talked about poetry as protection.

"I have the same sensation that everyone has as the circle begins to close. I must drink more champagne. In a moment I must write to Miss Vidal to look for a copy of [Leon-Paul] Fargue's Poemes 1911-12 for me. It seems that this volume contains the best of Fargue, and, if so, I shall like to carry it about with me a bit. I like the idea of a book as a talisman to take the place of the rabbit's foot: something that guards one in the midst of everything profane."

Further Reading

New Yorker article on Wallace Stevens

Excerpts from Wallace Stevens' Biography

NPR commemoration 50 years after Stevens' death

Letters of Wallace Stevens
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Flannery O'Connor

You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.