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Man with the Blue Guitar, The

‘the poem stevens guitar’

a collection of poetry by Wallace Stevens, first published in 1937. The title sequence of thirty-three short poems in couplets is among the best-known of his works. The book also contained two shorter pieces, the satirical ‘A Thought Revolved’ and the elegiac ‘The Men that Are Falling’, and an abridged version of ‘Owl's Clover’, which had originally appeared in 1936; this lengthy sequence, widely regarded as the least successful of Stevens's poems, formed a rhetorically complex attempt to define the poet's place in the bleak social context of the 1930s. By comparison, ‘The Man with the Blue Guitar’ employs language of marked, though sometimes enigmatic, lucidity and exactness in conducting its extended meditation on relations between imagination and actuality. ‘The man bent over his guitar’ of the first poem invokes the painting ‘The Old Guitarist’ by Picasso, who is specifically referred to in poem XV. As Stevens's symbol of the poetic imagination, the blue guitar must give forth an art that simultaneously transmutes and remains faithful to reality; the philosophical and aesthetic issues thus raised are identified and evaluated in the course of the poem, which moves towards a tentative reconciliation of the apparently conflicting demands of life and art as it concludes.

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