Of Modern Poetry

Of Modern Poetry Study Guide

"Of Modern Poetry" is a poem by Wallace Stevens published in 1942, in his collection Parts of a World. The poem acts as a highly self-referential manifesto on the purpose of modern poetry, and the role of the poet.

This poem marks a noticeable shift from Stevens' earlier poetry: it is still deeply philosophical, but clearer and more straightforward, and it advocates social involvement with other people and with life's simple pleasures.

These changes largely reflect the evolution of the school of 'modern poetry' from its genesis in the 1910s to 1942, as well as the dramatic social upheavals of the Great Depression and the ongoing World War II. Helen Vendler describes "Of Modern Poetry" as Stevens' recognition of a "desperate necessity," in light of worldwide chaos, to write poems that touched people's lives, poems that allowed readers to sympathize emotionally and find something satisfying in the bleak modern world.