Harmonium (poetry Collection)

Harmonium (poetry Collection)

Harmonium is a book of poetry by U.S. poet Wallace Stevens. His first book, it was published in 1923 by Knopf in an edition of 1500 copies. He was in middle age at that time, forty-four years old. The collection comprises 85 poems, ranging in length from just a few lines ("Life Is Motion") to several hundred ("The Comedian as the Letter C"). See footnote 1 for the table of contents. Harmonium was reissued in 1931 with three poems omitted and fourteen new poems added.

The book's first edition sold only a hundred copies before being remaindered, suggesting that the poet and critic Mark Van Doren had it right when he wrote in The Nation in 1923 that Stevens's wit "is tentative, perverse, and superfine; and it will never be popular." Yet by 1960 the cottage industry of Stevens studies was becoming a "multinational conglomerate," more than fulfilling Van Doren's prophecy that some day a monograph would be written that would pay tribute to Stevens's "delicately enunciated melody, his economy, his clipped cleanliness of line, his gentle excellence." A library search in the twenty-first century at a typical university could be expected to bring up about 200 books under the topic "Wallace Stevens". The Wallace Stevens Journal has been published by the Wallace Stevens Society since 1979, and its editor, John N. Serio, has collected some of the journal's essays in The Cambridge Companion to Wallace Stevens. An audiobook of his complete public domain poems was completed by Librivox in 2007. "Anecdote of the Jar" has become not only Stevens's signature but also an icon of American poetry.

Most of Harmonium's poems were published between 1914 and 1923 in various magazines, so most are now in the public domain in America and similar jurisdictions, as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act affects only works first published after 1922.

Earthy Anecdote

Every time the bucks went clattering
Over Oklahoma
A firecat bristled in the way.

Wherever they went,
They went clattering,
Until they swerved
In a swift, circular line
To the right,
Because of the firecat.

Or until they swerved
In a swift, circular line
To the left,
Because of the firecat.

The bucks clattered.
The firecat went leaping,
To the right, to the left,
Bristled in the way.

Later, the firecat closed his bright eyes
And slept.

Read more about Harmonium (poetry Collection):  Of What Was It The Proclamation?, A "flavorously Original Poetic Personality", A Sublimation Which Does Not Permit A Sequel, The Cool Master, The Poetry of Sensuousness, Anti-Poetry, Meaning and Syntax, 'true Subject' Versus 'the Poetry of The Subject', Emotional Deprivation, Enigmatic Naturalism, The Mind of China, The Gaudiness of Poetry, The Musical Imagist, A Particular Comic Quality, Knowing The Ultimate Plato, Locality, The Whole of Harmonium, Conclusion