A Wallace Stevens Readers Guide

Stevens Places: Real and Imagined


Developed by David [Lavery] and the students in the summer 2002 Wallace Stevens Seminar.


Eric Atkins | A. J. Brigati | Claude Crum | Katherine Haynes | Carrie O'Neal | Joanne Regensburg | Jean Rhodes | Karen Wright

Feigning with the Strange Unlike: A Wallace Stevens World Wide Websitee

Dr. David Lavery, English Department, MTSU

A Stevens Lexicon | Stevens People/Personages/Personae: Real and Imagined | A Stevens Dictionary | Stevens' Foreign Words and Phrases | Ronald Sukenick's Wallace Stevens: Musing the Obscure


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Stevens Places: Real and Imagined

Unless otherwise specified all page numbers refer to


Annotation Assigned To/Annotation

Academy of Fine Ideas, The

Stevens addresses the Academy of Fine Ideas in “Extracts from the Academy of Fine Ideas.” The Academy may represent any of the Academies, such as the Academie Francaise or even Plato’s Academy, regarded, by some people, as the only fortresses (i.e., keepers and protectors) of knowledge. In the poem, Stevens urges the leaders of the Academy of Fine Ideas to discard their beliefs in the “old fictions” and open their minds in order to accept the world as a fiction to be constantly recreated, for they are the ones who can most easily forge the way for Stevens’ “new philosophy” He tells them, “Messieurs / It is an artificial world” and also that “the false and true are one” (228). [Atkins]


“A Word with Jose Rodriguez-Feo” [Lavery]


Aix (-en-Provence)- located in the South of France was once capital of Provence and is an important intellectual and French cultural center. Population 125,000. Stevens regarded this as "a place which has long interested me," (LWS 731) although he never visited. It was in Aix that Steven's procured a collection of volumes from the collection of Mouravit, a gentleman of whom he would contact by letter on occasion. Stevens was fond of the culture and perhaps fantasized about the people of Aix in presuming their courtesy as he once mentioned that if he were to call on his contacts in Aix, they would be more to oblige him in sending a delicacy of the region in which he delighted, cheese with raisin. It is clear that Stevens wished to visit the area as he envy's MacGreevys travels (LWS 730), "I envy every foot of the trip through France. On my death there will be found carved on my heart, along with the initials of lots of attractive girls, that I have known, the name of Aix-en-Provence." In “Holidays in Realitty” (275), Stevens juxtaposes Aix with Stockholm as representing a particular shade of yellow. [Brigati]




Apennines—A mountain range running the entire length of the Italian peninsula. Mt. Vesuvius is part of this range. Various areas of the Apennines are popular European vacation spots.  In “Arcades of Philadelphia the Past” the speaker in the poem contrasts the idealized manner in which the rich remember “the strawberries once in the Apennines” with the poor who instead remember “the strawberries once in the Apennines . . . they seem a little painted, now. The mountains are scratched and used, clear flakes” (207). [Crum]


The Arkansaw is a major river in central U.S. flowing 1450 miles through Colorado, Kansas, and Oklahoma, where it becomes a tributary of the Mississippi. Along the river, Stevens notes are “feat sandbars,” one of which, in the poem “Jack Rabbit,” is a platform on which the rabbit performs his celebration to the river. Thus the river, for all its attractiveness, becomes an obstacle to the rabbit’s continued existence, because by focusing on only one element of the transitory life force he becomes a target of prey. [Haynes]


Avignon is a city in the southeast of France of about 90,000 people. Located on the Rhone River, the Roman Catholic Pope lived in Avignon in the fourteenth century. This French city appears in “Examination of the Hero in a Time of War” (CP 244). Stevens presents this poem through the eyes of the Hero, and the Hero looks upon Avignon as a peaceful place but too peaceful for the Hero in war times. He prefers force, action, and bravery over “pink-clustered” Rome, Avignon, and Leyden. Stevenns presents these cities as places without the opportunity to be heroic. [O’Neal]


Azcan is a fictional place found in the poem "Bantams in Pine-Woods" (60). The speaker of the poem is an "inchling" addressing “Chieftain Iffucan of Azcan in caftan" (60). The inchling speaker represents individual imagination while "Chieftain Iffucan" is a "ten-foot poet" that represents universal reality. Throughout the poem, the speaker tells "Chieftain Iffucan" that the inchlings do not fear him, and the inchlings are victorious in the "Pine-Woods" over the Azcan "ten-foot poet."  Thus Azcan, for Stevens, is a place where the giant poet of universal reality comes from, and Stevens sees himself as the inchling in the pine-woods. Stevens places dual meanings on “Chieftain Iffucan of Azcan.” Rhetorically, one can hear in the Chieftain's name "if you can" and "as you can" (Sukenick 68). One could perhaps hear "if you can--as I can." If the speaker could do as the "ten-foot poet," then the speaker might not be an "inchling." Bantams in Pine-Woods [Regensburg]


City in Switzerland located on the Rhine. Among its famous residents are Erasmus, Calvin, and Nietzsche. Alluded to in “Description Without Place” [Lavery]

Battleship, The

The battleship, "The Masculine," appears in Stevens' post-World War Two poem "Life on a Battleship." It is the location from which the captain plots a utopian, Marxist scheme to rule the world by constructing a giant warship, dubbed "a cloud on the sea." It serves as a symbol of the futility of Marxism and the dangers of war. [Rhodes]

Biscayne Bay

Shallow inlet of the Atlantic Ocean off the southeast coast of Florida; bordered by Miami, Miami Beach, and the Florida Keys. As part of his job responsibilities at the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Co., Stevens was required to make regular business trips to the Miami area. “Homunculus et La Belle Etoile” (20-21) was written in Miami, and Biscayne Bay is the setting for this poem “that is merely a statement of an impression: One version of man’s place in nature” (Letters 305). [Wright]


Brazil is the largest country in South America and provides the setting for the second section of “The Pure Good of Theory,” which is entitled “Description of a Platonic Person.” Stevens portrays Brazil as a comforting place: “Then came Brazil to nourish the emaciated / Romantic with dreams of her avoirdupois, green glade / Of serpents like z rivers simmering, / Green glade and holiday hotel and world / Of the future” (290). In the final stanza, Stevens reveals that Brazil is the home of the “platonic person” and tells the reader why this figure is in Brazil: “This platonic person discovered a soul in the world / And studied it in his holiday hotel. / He was a Jew from Europe or might have been” (291). Given the publication date of this poem (in Transport to Summer, 1947), Stevens may be commenting on the Jewish holocaust in Germany, from which many Jews fled to many different parts of the world, including South America. [Atkins]

Bucks County

a Southeastern Pennsylvania county of approximately 600,000 residents. This mostly rural county is the location of Stevens' father's birth and home to Stevens' grandparents' farm where he often visited. Keeping with the traditions of Stevens' Pennsylvania-Dutch heritage, in “Dutch Graves in Bucks County” (258), we may surmise the narrator suggests that battle and war continues as the casualties of Dutch descended soldiers lie in their stateside graves. [Brigati]


Venezuela's capital, largest city of Venezuela, and industrial center. Alluded to in “Metamorphosis” [Lavery]


Appears in “In the Carolinas” and “The Comedian as the Letter C.”  The third cantos of “The Comedian as the Letter C “is subtitled “Approaching Carolina,” and in this section of the poem Crispin settles in Carolina after his journey to the Yucatan and eventually establishes a colony. [Crum]


Catawba is a region of South Carolina named for a river which flows from the Blue Ridge Mountains into Lake Wateree, east of Columbia. In Section IV of "It Must Give Pleasure" in Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction Catawba is the site of a "mystic marriage" between "a great captain and the maiden Bawda (346).

Cathedral, The

The cathedral figures in Stevens’ poem, “Comedian as the Letter C” (p. 26 ). It is the place to which the populace of the Yucatan, including the European traveler, Crispin, sought refuge during a dangerous storm. Originally planning only to make notes of the cathedral’s façade, he finds himself kneeling inside with the rest of the congregation. Though he was styled as a “connoisseur of the elemental fate,” he recognizes that the storm proclaims “something harsher that he learned.” [Haynes]


Ceylon is an island in the Indian Ocean off the southeastern coast of India. Stevens uses Ceylon in two different poems, “A Weak Mind in the Mountains” (CP 192) and “Connoisseur of Chaos” (CP 194). In “A Weak Mind,” Stevens uses Ceylon as a contrast image: “The wind of Iceland and the wind of Ceylon, Meeting, gripped my mind.” Stevens uses the image of freezing Iceland and tropical, steamy Ceylon clashing, and in the poem, the speaker must make a similar decision whose options are as contradictory as hot and cold. In “Connoisseur of Chaos,” Stevens says, “If Englishmen lived without tea in Ceylon, and they do.” The very title of this poem suggests that the poet wants chaos, and he even says that inherent opposites create essential unity that is “pleasant as port.” Therefore, in this example, the poet means that, if there are any Englishmen in Ceylon at all (which is unlikely), then they certainly live there without the tea to which they are accustomed in England. In the greater context of the poem, he says that the contrasts (the chaos) that we encounter in our daily lives and we should revel in the disorder of everyday truth. [O’Neal]


Chocorua appears in section XXI of "The Man with the Blue Guitar: "The shadow of Chocorua / In an immenser heaven, aloft," (144). Around 3500 feet high, Chocorua is a mountain in New Hampshire known as Mt Chocorua. Perhaps it is most known for "Chocorua to Its Neighbor" (263-268) in which the mountain speaks to its neighbor, "Now, I, Chocorua, speak of this shadow as / A human thing. It is an eminence," (267). Chocorua represents Stevens' voice lecturing of the differences between the imagined and the real. The Man with the Blue Guitar [Regensburg]



Crude Foyer

Described in Stevens' poem of the same name, the crude foyer represents "the end of thought." This is a place that many, who rely on reason alone, view as the ultimate destination of systematic reason. [Rhodes]




Élysée is a palace in Paris, France; built in 1718, Élysée has been the official residence of the presidents of France since 1873. In “Of Heaven Considered as a Tomb” (45), the “Freemen of death” (6) seek heaven’s celestial palaces that they had expected to inhabit after death as opposed to the dark nothingness they actually found. The “icy Elysée” (15) is a generic representation of such a palace. [Wright]


In Greek mythology, Elysia (or Elysium) was an otherworld for heroes who were especially favored by the gods. In the third section of “The Pure Good of Theory,” entitled “Fire Monsters in the Milky Brain,” Stevens writes that “We knew one parent must have been divine, / Adam of beau regard, from fat Elysia” (III. 4-5). Here we see Stevens blending Judeo-Christian and Greek mythology (both “old fictions”) by depicting Adam, the Judeo-Christian “father of man,” as a being coming from “Elysia” of Greek mythology. [Atkins]


A country in Northern Europe bordering on the Baltic Sea, population 1,357,000. In "The Man on the Dump, "the box/ from Estonia: the tiger chest, for tea," is found in the dump among other discards (185). [Brigati]


Small city in Connecticut, founded in the 17th century, located west of Hartford (one of whose major streets is named after it). [Lavery]



Gardens of Acclimatization

In “Analysis of a Theme” “immaterial monsters [. . . are]pure coruscations, that lie beyond the imagination, intact and unattained, even in Paris, in the Gardens of Acclimatization, on a holiday” (CPP 304). The suggestion seems to be that the “immaterial monsters,” “three-legged giraffes,” “time’s haggard mongrels,” and various other creatures of imagination remain strange even in the Garden of Acclimatization, the one place where they should become acclimatized and adapt to their surroundings. [Crum]


Geneva is the name of a major city and canton in southwestern Switzerland, as well as the lake of the same name. The canton of Geneva was not officially included as a region of Switzerland until the nineteenth century, but the city is known for its connection to the sixteenth century Protestant reformer, John Calvin, who settled there to avoid persecution and imposed a strict religious rule on its citizens. In the poem, “The Doctor of Geneva,” the city figures as the mental architecture of a man who is incapable of comprehending the immensity of experience when faced with the pounding shoreline of the Pacific Ocean, “[u]ntil the steeple of his city clanked and sprang/ In an unburgherly apocalypse.”

The lake of Geneva is the largest lake in central Europe. In “Esthétique du Mal,” the shore of the lake of Geneva where “lakes are more reasonable than oceans,” is a place where one might feel invited to retreat into now defunct theories of logic. [Haynes]


Stevens is, of course, referring to the southeastern state whose capital is Atlanta. In “The Comedian as the Letter C,” Stevens states, “The man in Georgia waking among pines/ Should be pine-spokesman” (CP 31). In this context, Crispin is attempting to describe his new idea for a colony, and he intrinsically links people with the places they are from. Georgia is one of several places Stevens mentions, and these examples prove Stevens’s link to the soil, that the places people are from are essential parts of themselves. [O’Neal]

Greenest Continent, The

The Greenest Continent, according to Stevens' poem by the same name originally titled "Statue in Africa," is, of course, Africa. In a letter to Ronald Latimer, Stevens reveals the subject is specifically the white man in Africa (Letters 308). Found in Owl's Clover, this poem states, "No god rules over Africa, no throne, / Single, of burly ivory, inched of gold," (159). [Regensburg]


This is the location from which the character in "Arrival at the Waldorf" has returned. It is contrasted with the Waldorf, and Guatemala is described as "alien, point-blank, green and actual." [Rhodes]


A Word with José-Rodriquez-Feo [Lavery]


A town of about 7,000 people located in the Lower Connecticut River valley, In "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird," Stevens asks the "thin men of Haddam" why they "imagine golden birds" when the ordinary blackbird should satisfy their imagination.


Hamburg is a city/state located in northwest Germany on the Elbe River with an estimated population of 1,800,000 residents. In “Lions in Sweden” (CPP 102), “Monsieur Dufy’s Hamburg” alludes to a woodcut for Apollinaire’s Le Bestiaire ou le Courtège d’Orphée (1911). In the illustration, Dufy uses Hamburg, home of the Hagenbeck zoo (supplier of circus and zoo animals), as the background for a heraldic lion. The lions in the poem symbolize a rejection of outworn classical images, so if they have become mere souvenirs—relics of the past—then they should be sent back to the zoo, “To Monsieur Dufy’s Hamburg whence they came” (18). (See also “Dufy, Monsieur” and “Apollinaire, Guillume”) [Wright]


The capital and major city of Connecticut. [Lavery]


Havana, the capital of Cuba, is one of the few places outside of the United States that Stevens visited during his lifetime. Though he often visited many different places throughout the US and seems to have seen more of the American landscape than most people of his time, Stevens strangely confined himself to the North American continent. In his many visits to Florida and Key West, Stevens, at one point, though, did venture off of the mainland and found himself in Havana, Cuba. In “Academic Discourse at Havana” from Ideas of Order, Stevens writes this of Havana: “Canaries in the morning, orchestras / In the afternoon, balloons at night. That is a difference, at least, from nightingales, / Jehovah and the great sea-worm. / The air is not so elemental nor the earth / So near” (115). Clearly, we see that Stevens had great affection for Havana in much the same way as he had great affection for Florida and Key West. [Atkins]


(Le Havre, formerly Le Havre-de-Grace), a city and port in Nothern France on the English Channel on the north side of the Seine Estuary, population 199,509. In Stevens' "Of Hartford in a Purple Light," Havre is the place where Master Soleil originates his frequent trips to Hartford. CPP 208) [Brigati]

Hermitage at the Center, The



Holland figures largely in “Dutch Graves in Bucks County.” Published in 1947, the poem refers obviously to World War II, and the speaker compares the American soldiers in Europe to the earlier Dutch soldiers in America “whose ecstasy was the glory of heaven in the wilderness” (CCP 260). [Crum]

Indian River

“Indian River” is the title of a poem (93) and comes from the name of a county on the central east coast of Florida, renowned for its citrus groves. In Stevens’ poem, it figures as a place of trade- winds blowing among the physical properties of the docks and groves, but without the promise of spring. [Haynes]




Java is an island of Indonesia separated from Borneo by the Java Sea, an arm of the Pacific Ocean. Stevens uses Java in a poem called “Tea” (77) to illustrate the exact color and shade umbrellas render in Java. [O’Neal]

Jersey City

Jersey City lies in New Jersey on a peninsula between the Hudson and Hackensack rivers in northeastern New Jersey. Located seven miles to the west is Newark, New Jersey. Manhattan is across the Hudson River to the east. Jersey City is NJ's second largest city. Steven's "Loneliness in Jersey City" (191) portrays the town in a pejorative sense: "The steeples are empty and so are the people," (191). The people of Jersey City "think that things are all right, / Since the deer and the dachshund are one" (191). Jersey City represents the world in which people are empty and unable to distinguish between dogs and deer. [Regensburg]


This location is mentioned in Section Sixteen of The Man With the Blue Guitar. Living life in the midst of too much reality might cause some to mistakenly seek material improvements for spiritual impoverishment: "To chop the sullen psaltery, / To improve the sewers in Jerusalem." [Rhodes]

Key West



Medieval walled citadel, now the seat of Russian government, located in Moscow. Alluded in “Architecture” [Lavery]


Lakes figure prominently in Section XIV of “Esthétique du Mal” (285-86). They represent reason and a lack of imagination: “One wants to be able to walk / By the lake at Geneva and consider logic” (10); “Lakes are more reasonable than oceans” (13); and Konstantinov in his logical “lunacy […] would not be aware of the lake” (18). See also “Konstantinov,” “Oceans,” and “Doctor of Geneva, The.” [Wright]


Leyden (or Leiden) is a city in the Western Netherlands, on the Rhine River, north of The Hague. Leyden is most well known for its university, the University of Leiden, which is the oldest in the Netherlands and was the center of Protestant theological learning and of science in the 17th and 18th centuries. Leyden appears in the first section of Stevens’ “Examination of the Hero in a Time of War.” He writes, “Force is my lot and not pink-clustered / Roma ni Avignon ni Leyden” (I. 1-2). The speaker of the poem, the hero, reveals that his “lot” or his existence is based around “force” and not the “pink-clustered” or sheltered, protected cities of Rome or Avignon or Leyden. [Atkins]


(Lassa), a city in Tibet, population 175,000. In "Anecdote of Men by the Thousand," Stevens refers to "The dress of a woman of Lhassa" as "an invisible element of that place/ Made visible" (41). This idea exemplifies Stevens' adage, "Life is an affair of people not of places. But for me life is an affair of places and that is the trouble." Stevens emphasizes his tendencies to identify persons or objects by their place or origin. [Brigati]


Prelude to Objects [Lavery]


Variations on a Summer Day

Moon, The

The dominant feature of the night sky, the moon figures regularly in Stevens' poetry with over one hundred direct references and numerous indirect allusions. For Stevens, the moon is a derivative satellite, an inconstant, weak illuminator, and a false representation of the imaginative apprehension of reality. In "The Comedian as the Letter C," and "Esthétique du Mal," for example, the moon is described as "evasive." Its inconstancy is associated with "flippant communication" in "Auroras of Autumn," and its gravitational pull is associated with unconscious and death in "Madame La Fleurie:" "Weight him, weight him with the sleepiness of the moon." The moon's light is "obscure" and it lights an "obscure world" in "Motive for Metaphor." Stevens states flatly in "Ordinary Evening in New Haven," that "[i]t is fatal in the moon and empty there." Those who insist on negating reality are described as coated with moonlight, like Mrs. Alfred Uruguay, in the poem of the same name, who declares confusedly, " I have wiped away moonlight like mud," from her skirt. Humanity does not have to fall for the moon's seductive influence, however. In the same poem, Mrs. Alfred Uruguay passes a stranger "of capable imagination," going in the opposite direction, "intent upon the sun," "blind to her velvet and/The moonlight." [Haynes]

Mountain Covered with Cats

Stevens uses these mountains in the poem “Mountains Covered with Cats” (318). The mountains are, of course, fictitious, but his main point concentrates on the ideas of a crowd versus original individuals. Stevens dislikes the idea of human beings falling into sameness with other human beings, i.e. the loss of individuality. However, on the Mountain Covered with Cats, individuality prevails, and “they had not been what they were.” [O’Neal]

Myrrh-Mountain, The

The Myrrh-Mountain is another name for Neversink Mountain and appears in "Late Hymn from the Myrrh-Mountain" (305). Having a hotel at its peak, Stevens frequently visited the mountain in Berks County near Reading, PA. Myrrh is yellowish brown or amber in color. This poem describes the changes as fall progresses into winter. Thus Myrrh-Mountain is Neversink Mountain just before winter begins. [Regensburg]

Mystic Garden

This imagined location is mentioned in Section Two of "A Thought Revolved." It is suggested as the place to which a poet might be transported by the vehicle of imagination. [Rhodes]



New Haven

Medium-sized Connecticut industrial and port city, the home of Yale University, located south of Hartford. The fictional setting of Stevens' long poem "An Ordinary Evening in New Haven." [Lavery]

Nigger Cemetery, A

“A Nigger Cemetery” refers to the theme of death in “Like Decorations in a Nigger Cemetery” (CPP 121). According to Stevens, the title “refers to the litter that one usually finds in a nigger cemetery” (Letters 272). The “Decorations,” therefore, are the poet’s observations on death. [Wright]


Two at Norfolk [Atkins]


a Northern European nation/ kingdom in Scandinavia bordering on the Atlantic and Arctic oceans. In Stevens' “Of Hartford in a Purple Light” (208), Master Soleil brings "the lights of Norway and all that." Here "lights" are personified as both masculine and feminine figures representing human ideas and influence toward progress. This progress, however, is not to be mistaken as necessarily for the better as Stevens associates such with excess. [Brigati]


"Ancient state of NE Africa, which extended from Khartoum in the Sudan almost to Aswan in Egypt." [The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia is licensed from Columbia University Press. Copyright © 1991 by Columbia University Press] Alluded to in “Examination of the Hero in a Time of War” [Lavery]


The ocean seems to almost always have a mesmerizing effect on the characters of Stevens’s poetry. In “The Comedian as the Letter C” the ocean’s “ubiquitous concussion, slap and sigh” (23) are too much for Crispin as he is dwarfed by the “verboseness” and “magnitude” of the sea. Likewise, the doctor of Geneva in the poem which bears his name, is a “lacustrine man” who is moved so dramatically by the ocean that he imagines “the steeples of his city clanked and sprang [. . .] in apocalypse” (19). In “The Idea of Order at Key West” the ocean is less awe-inspiring, as the poet explains “the ever-hooded, tragic-gestured sea was merely a place by which she walked to sing” (105). Even in this setting, however, the ocean still has a mysterious quality. [Crum]


Oklahoma became the forty-sixth state in 1907. It is located in the central southwestern United States. It appears in two of Stevens’ poems, “Earthy Anecdote” (p. 3) and “Life is Motion” (p. 65). The setting for both poems is the southwestern outdoors. In the first, Oklahoma is described as a vast plain on which of a herd of “clattering” bucks race from “A firecat” which “bristled in the way.” The second describes a pioneering couple dancing around a stump, dressed in calico and singing. Both poems may express Stevens’ attempt to find an authentic voice for “place” in poetry and the native life force of that “place.” [Haynes]


Olympia is a plain of southern Greece in the northwest Peloponnesus. The city which sits high in the mountains was a religious center devoted to the worship of Zeus, the home of the gods, and the site of the ancient Olympic Games. In “The Man With the Blue Guitar,” Stevens says “Oxidia is Olympia.” In his letters, Stevens says that Oxidia is a typical industrial suburb, stained and grim. He creates a very stark contrast between Olympia, which is almost heavenly as it is the home of the gods, and Oxidia, a grimy suburb. He says in the letters that “Oxidia is that from which Olympia must come. Oxidia is both the seed and the ember-pod from which the seed of Olympia drops” (Letters 789). [O’Neal]


A fictional, "banal suburb," whose residents are heavily committed to buying on credit ("One-half of all its installments paid"), imagined by Stevens in "The Man with the Blue Guitar," in which he succeeds in equating it with Olymbia. [Lavery]

Palace of the Babies

Palace of the Babies is the title of a poem about the imagination in Stevens' Harmonium where "The disbeliever walked the moonlit place" (61). The Palace of Babies is a mental state in which the imagination is obsolete and in disbelief because of an inconceivable image.


Palaz of Hoon, The

This is the palatial residence of Hoon in "Tea at the Palaz of Hoon." It is the location from which Hoon surveys his domain, projecting his imagination onto reality. [Rhodes]



Palm at the End of the Mind, The

In “Of Mere Being” (476-77), “The palm at the end of the mind” (1) represents an unattainable goal of thought or feeling. It is just out of our reach, “Beyond the last thought” (2). The “gold-feathered bird” (4) in the palm whose “fire-fangled feathers dangle down” (12) is oblivious to our frustrated desire because he sings “without human meaning, / Without human feeling” (5-6). Regardless of our happiness or unhappiness, “The bird sings. Its feathers shine” (9). So, “The palm stands on the edge of space” (10), denying us the experience it signifies. [Wright]

Park, The

There are many references to the park throughout Stevens’s poetry. Whenever one encounters Stevens talking about the park, he is most likely referring to Elizabeth Park. Elizabeth Park is only about two blocks from where Stevens lived and on his walks to work every morning, he often walked in the park, where many think he actually composed his poetry in his head before dictating the work to his secretary at work. Some notable occurrences of the park are “Invective Against Swans,” in which Stevens vilifies swans for their repetitious behavior, and “Vacancy in the Park,” in which Stevens muses over the passing of winter and the coming of summer. The park is present in nearly every collection of Stevens’s poetry although he usually uses it as just a setting to discuss other things, such as the people walking in the park, the animals (swans, etc.) in the park, or the seasons and their affect on the park and himself. [Atkins]


May refer to a city in Southwestern California east of Glandale, population 113,327, or a city in Southeastern Texas, east of Houston, population 89,277. In “Of Hartford in a Purple Light” (208), "The aunts in Pasadena, remembering,/ Abhor the plaster of western horses,/ Souvenirs of museums." Stevens distaste for the statuesque is revealed as he shows his contempt for what are regarded as symbols of the progress of past societies. [Brigati]


Mississippi city located on the Gulf of Mexico, about 100 miles east of New Orleans. [Lavery]


Capital city of China, now usually spelled Beijing. Appears in “The Comedian as the Letter C.” The poet says “it seemed illusive, faint, more mist than moon, perverse, wrong as a divagation to Peking” (CPP 28). [Crum]


Not far from Boothbay Harbor on the Southeastern coast of Maine, Pemaquid is a geographical sighting in Stevens' poem "Variations on a Summer Day." Now a historic site, it is noted in the poem for its special grass, known as "timothy grass." [Haynes]

Perkomen, The

Stevens refers to the Perkiomen Creek in “Thinking of a Relation Between the Images of Metaphors” (310). The Perkiomen is a creek near Dublin, Pennsylvania and near Reading, PA, Stevens’s birthplace. [O’Neal]


Located in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia is the fifth largest city in the U.S. with a metropolitan population of over 6 million. In "Arcades of Philadelphia the Past," Stevens refers to the ancient Palestinian city of Philadelphia where people cannot use their senses: "Do they touch the thing they see, / Feel the wind of it, smell the dust of it?" (207). In Musing the Obscure, Sukenick contends that their sensory deficiency prevents them from imagining. Because of the "sensuous wealth of the present," the past does not seam real (211). [Regensburg]

Place of the Toucans

One of many elemental descriptions to be found in "Anecdote of Men by the Thousand," the place of toucans serves to describe a place by its physical nature. This hearkens back to "The Comedian as the Letter C," also found in Harmonium. The names given to people and places are drawn from their physical properties as opposed to association of words to things through abstraction. [Rhodes]

Planet on the Table, The

A poem written about the publication of Stevens’s collected works. In the poem, the poet takes on the persona of Ariel, and contemplates his creations, saying that “his self and the sun were one and his poems, although makings of his self, were no less makings of the sun” (CPP 450).  If the poet is the sun, then the poetry is the planet.  Likewise, the analogy holds that a group of poems contains a multitude of locals and characters, much like an actual planet. Thus, a book of Stevens’s poetry on a table is a planet on a table. See Ariel. [Crum]

Poem That Took the Place of a Mountain, The


Public Square, The

“The Public Square” (91) is the site of the demolition of a large building. The destruction of the building, which is rendered in harsh language evocative of the Cubist style of painting, suggests a corresponding loss of a tradition or idea that was represented by the architectural structure. [Wright]




(Rome) city in Italy on the Tiber River, population 2,706,535, once seat of the Roman Empire. In “Examination of the Hero in Time of War” (244), Stevens writes of the soldiers always under imminent threat of death and unfavorable circumstances, yet still they speak of "the brightness of arms and observe "Roma wasted/ In its own dirt." For the hero of war, "force" is his lot, and a vulnerable city represents no shelter. [Brigati]


A Dish of Peaches in Russia [Lavery]

St. Armorer’s Church

Appears in “St. Armorer’s Church from the Outside.” Apparently, the poem refers to The Church of the Good Shepherd which is located in Hartford, CT. The principle entrance to the church is known as the Armorer’s Porch, an ornately decorated stone structure decorated with engravings of machinery and gun components intermingled with ivy and Christian symbols. The church is probably referred to as the Armorer’s Church because it was built by Elizabeth Colt whose husband had founded the Colt gun manufacturing empire.  While “St. Armorer’s was once a great success” (448), the church has lost some of its appeal in the eyes of the poet. The poem contains numerous references to the carvings of decorative foliage with which architect Edward Tuckerman Potter adorned the building, but it seems that the decline of the church in the poet’s eyes is more spiritual than physical. [Crum]


Scandinavia is the region of Northern Europe, comprised of the nations of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. In Stevens' poem "Two at Norfolk," the reference evokes the poignancy of the immigrant father whose American daughter "was a foreign thing." His unconscious center never left his native land, as described in the line, "For him the moon was always in Scandinavia." Now buried in Norfolk, his existence has been marked by separation. In death, his grave is tended by yet another population of marginalized persons, "darkies." The poem llustrates a sense profound disjunction between culture, generation, gender, and race. [Haynes]


Common name now used to refer to the University of Paris, one of Europe's most prestigious universities, founded in the 12th century. In "Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction," Stevens predicts that "they" [French intellectuals] "will get it straight one day at the Sorbonne. /. . . Pleased that the irrational is rational." [Lavery]


Botanist on Alp (No. 1), Holiday in Reality [O’Neal]




This river, located north of Harrisburg, PA, appears in both "The Countryman" and "Metaphor as Degeneration." In both cases, it is intended to represent the real, physical, actual world over and against abstractions of the mind that are expressed in metaphor. [Rhodes]


Lions in Sweden [Lavery]


The Tallapoosa River flows for about 268 miles through western Georgia and eastern Alabama. In “Stars at Tallapoosa,” the irregular course of the river [“the sea-lines, moist and ever-mingling, / Mounting the earth-lines, long and lax, lethargic” (10-11)] is contrasted to the orderliness of the stars [“The lines are straight and swift between the stars” (1)]. The imagination is capable of ordering the chaos found in nature into “A sheaf of brilliant arrows flying straight” (15) like the stars. [Wright]


Tehuantepec is a city of about 30,000 people located in southern Mexico, due east of Acapulco and southeast of Oaxaca. The city of Tehuantepec is located on the Tehuantepec River, not far from the Gulf of Tehuantepec, an arm of the Pacific ocean. The Gulf of Tehuantepec is an area of notoriously strong winds. In “Sea Surface Full of Clouds,” Stevens takes the reader to Tehuantepec and gives a sense of the restlessness of the seas there: “In that November off Tehuantepec, / The slopping of the sea grew still one night” (I. 1-2). Each of the five sections of the poem begins with these two verses, the fourth and fifth sections varying slightly: “In that November off Tehuantepec / The night-long slopping of the sea grew still” (IV. 1-2); “In that November off Tehuantepec / Night stilled the slopping of the sea” (V. 1-2). [Atkins]


The U.S. state to which Stevens refers in "Anecdote of the Jar" (60). A jar is placed in the Tennessee wilderness, and the narrator notes observances of the introduction of such an exotic object upon untamed nature. The intrusive jar tends to dominate its surroundings and makes its presence known among the wild which seems almost forced to conform to its introduction. [Brigati]

Theatre of Trope

In "Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction," the park bench (in Elizabeth Park?) on which he sits and the natural world he experiences (including a swan, the west wind, a lake "full of artificial things") become in a moment of "catalepsy" a "Theatre/Of Trope." [Lavery]


In “Arcades of Philadelphia of the Past” the poet makes the observation that it is “queer, in this Vallombrossa of ears, that they never hear the past” (207).  In Musing the Obscure, Ronald Suckinick contends that the Vallombrossa was once inhabited by monks who “do not use their five senses and thus can apprehend neither past nor present” (211). Thus the poet seems to associate these monks with the rich living in Philadelphia at present who are also starved of their senses, who see the Apeninne Mountains as “scratched and used, clear flakes” (207). See Apennine. [Crum]


Vesuvius is an active volcano about eight miles from Naples, Italy. In August of 79 A.D., it erupted, burying ancient Roman towns, including Pompeii and Herculaneum. One of the casualties of this spectacular disaster was Pliny the Elder, who, as naval commander, had attempted a rescue operation, but was overcome by noxious fumes. The events of his death were recorded by his heir, Pliny the Younger, in letters home. In Stevens' poem, "Esthétique du Mal," a male character is observed at a window in Naples, writing letters home, while Vesuvius ominously rumbles in the distance. The man alternates between letter writing and dabbling in the nature of the sublime and the nature of pain. One senses an ironic comparison between the two letter writers, the one of Stevens' poem, and the one of history. [Haynes]

Volcano, The


Waldorf, The

Serving as the setting of Stevens' poem "Arrival at the Waldorf," this hotel is juxtaposed with the exotic Guatemalan jungles. It is most likely, considering Steven's familiarity with New York City, he is referring to the landmark, Waldorf-Astoria located on Park Avenue in mid-town Manhattan. This structure was erected in 1931 and is considered a grand hotel in Art Deco style. [Rhodes]

Watermelon Pavilion, A

Hymn from a Watermelon Pavilion [Lavery]


Yucatan is the tropical peninsula separating the Gulf of Mexico from the Caribbean. In “The Comedian as the Letter C,” Yucatan is the first stop Crispin makes on his cross-Atlantic voyage (24-27). The exotic locale heightens his senses, but Crispin continues to deny his penchant for poetry. [Wright]