Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Library Walk: Wallace Stevens

Born on this day in 1879, Wallace Stevens (1879–1955) gives hope to poets of a certain age as he was not published until the age of 35. In fact, the Harvard educated insurance executive's best work was not produced until he was in his 50s. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens in 1955.

As memorialized in New York City, it is the fifth verse of, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird that is enshrined on Library Walk. One of Wallace Stevens' earlier poems, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird was first published in 1917 by Alfred Kreymborg in Others: An Anthology of the New Verse.

Inspired by haiku, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird consists of thirteen brief verses where each verse mentions and relates to a blackbird. The featured verse — V reads as follows:

I do not know which to prefer,  
The beauty of inflections  
Or the beauty of innuendoes,  
The blackbird whistling  
Or just after.

In 1996, the New York Public Library, the Grand Central Partnership and the New Yorker Magazine convened a panel of esteemed lovers of the written word and came up with a collection of quotations from the never-ending oeuvre of literature.

These quotes were cast in bronze by New York sculptor Gregg LeFevre and then laid out as sidewalk plaques on E 41st Street in 1998. In 2003, the stretch of E 41st Street from the New York Public Library entrance on Fifth Avenue to Park Avenue was renamed Library Way.

Whether it be a birthday, anniversary or publication date of a seminal work, the Bar None Group will revisit these 40+ quotations from time to time — quotations that inspire one to write, read, explore and embrace literature. We last visited Nobel laureate William Butler Yeats.

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