Wallace Stevens

Wallace Stevens, on the other hand, in the first stanza of his poem “Tattoo”[iii] takes the close and introspective view of Dickinson,  while employing the same sort of listing employed by Whitman:

The light is like a spider.

It crawls over the water.

It crawls over the edges of the snow.

It crawls under your eyelids

And spreads its webs there–

Its two webs.

Clearly this poem, although it utilizes rhyme and conceit, could draw an allusion to Dickinson’s “There’s a certain Slant of light,” but does not have Dickinson’s economy of language.  Likewise, although it utilizes lists, does not have the extensive scope, nor the application of free verse seen in Whitman.  For, although cummings and Stevens may be said to use the techniques and scope of both Whitman and Dickinson, it may also be said that they use the techniques and scope of neither.

The question of literary DNA, perhaps, is less ambiguous when applied to those poets who seem to clearly favor one “parent,” such as Whitman.  Such diverse works as Allen Ginsberg’s “A Supermarket in California,”[iv] Anne Sexton’s “Venus and the Ark,”[v] and Robert Lowell’s “As a Plane Tree by the Water.”[vi] display undeniably “Whitmanesque” features.

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