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American literature: Steven Wallace Essay

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Updated: Dec 2nd, 2019


A poem can be defined in several ways. For example we can define it as a piece of writing in verse form which conveys strong feelings of a person a bout a given subject. For instance, one can write a poem in order to show his attitude or opinion about something or a pertinent issue that took place or is currently taking place in his or her contemporary society.

Others may also write poems simply for the purpose of entertaining people. This leads to the classification of poems into different categories. Steven Wallace is one of the poets whose works have highly been recognized in academic circles. He was one of the modernist poets in America. This paper analyses some of his poems.

The Death of a Soldier

“This poem is not glorifying a soldier’s death, but it describes the uncelebrated event” (Stevens 33). It specifically focuses on the time when a soldier dies. This poem has four verses, each having three lines. Each verse ends in a short line. The poet employed images in this poem in order to emphasize the theme.

The first line, ‘Life contacts and death is expected,’ helps in the development of the entire poem. This is because it signals the reduction in the weight of syllables in all the lines found within the four verses. “The second line of the first stanza, ‘As in a season of autumn,’ serves as a key simile and natural image, which deliberately underplays human events” (Stevens 34).

This line also appears in verse three. The changes experienced in life are contrasted with weather changes that take place between summer and autumn. The last stanza talks about the soldier’s mysterious death. His death has been compared with a windless moment that passes quickly. The persona focuses on how death renders men useless. “Meanwhile, the war, like the clouds moving overhead, moves on swiftly” (Stevens 56).

The Emperor of the Ice- Cream

This poem is based on the death of a woman. The persona explains the events which took place during a funeral ceremony. The death of the woman gives her relatives a chance to celebrate. The guests are also likely to remember the fun they have had during the party than the deceased woman that they have came to bury. This is because the tone is not sorrowful as we would expect to find in a normal funeral. The persona’s identity is also not revealed in this poem.

Wallace Steven used symbolism to enhance the theme. For example, “words such as muscular, concupiscent, wenches, and ice cream suggest sensuality and appetite” (Stevens 65). The poem has a pattern of accents and a meter that varies. A couplet is found in verse one and two of this poem. Repetition has also been applied in the poem. For example, “the last line of the second stanza repeats the last line of the first” (Stevens 78).

Alliteration, ‘kitchen cups concupiscent curds,’ has been applied to aid the development of rhythm in the poem. In these two poems the theme of death has been treated by the poet differently. In the first poem he has described death as uncelebrated event. However, in the second poem death is seen as an opportunity for people to have fun.

The Idea of Order at Key West

This poem is among Wallace Steven’s most popular poems. The poem talks about a song that was sang by a certain woman who was walking along the beach. The persona became amused when he heard the voice of the woman. “The poem dramatizes important conflicts for Steven’s imagination and reality” (Stevens 81).

Repetition has been widely used in the poem to reinforce the message of the poem. For example the phrase “if it was” appears in many lines. There is also the use of irregular rhyme scheme in the poem. Through this poem, Wallace is able to express his understanding of the world. “In this poem, reality pertains to the totality of all the things possessing actuality, existence or essence; imagination on the other hand, captures and interprets reality so an individual is able to create their own meaning of the given world” (Stevens 83).


The above analysis indicates that Wallace Steven employed very effective poetic skills in his work. This majorly contributed to the success of his poems. Apart from this, most of his poems explain the contemporary issues and events that take place in our society. As post modernist artist, he has also used time to explain the changes that occur in the society.

Works Cited

Stevens, Wallace. Wallace Stevens: collected poetry and prose. New York: Wiley, 1997.

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