Shortly after receiving an award, American poet Wallace Stevens (1879-1955) penned a letter to his wife Elsie on July 19, 1916:
Eminent Vers Libriste Arrives in Town: Details of Reception
St Paul, Minn. July 19, 1916. Wallace Stevens, the playwright and barrister, arrived at Union Station, at 10.30 o’clock this morning. Some thirty representatives of the press were not present to greet him. He proceeded on foot to the Hotel St. Paul, where they had no room for him. Thereupon, carrying an umbrella and two mysterious looking bags, he proceeded to Minnesota Club, 4th & Washington-Streets, St. Paul where he will stay while he is in St. Paul. At the Club, Mr. Stevens took a shower-bath and succeeded in flooding not only the bath-room floor but the bed-room floor as well. He used all the bath-towels in mopping up the mess and was obliged to dry himself with a wash-cloth. From the Club, Mr. Stevens went down-town on business. When asked how he liked St. Paul, Mr. Stevens, borrowing a cigar, said, ‘I like it.’
The above clipping may be of interest to you. Note my address. I am waiting for some papers to be typed — ah! Give my best to the family.
If you are wondering, the “above clipping” was indeed written by Stevens himself. It was a parody on the high level of publicity received by popular writers and poets at the time everytime they visited a place.
Perhaps, like a number of Stevens’ contemporaries, he wasn’t that fond of media attention, though I’m not certain about it.
Conrad Aiken (1889-1973), a contemporary of Stevens, lamented that poetry was getting too popular. He was particularly critical of the Poetry Magazine, who was giving poetry-related awards left and right, which in his perspective, turned poetry into a cheap spectacle. Even the editor of the Poetry Magazine, Harriet Monroe (1860-1936) expressed a similar sentiment as she was concerned that poetry was becoming too mainstream. On the flipside, Alice Corbin Henderson (1881-1949), her assistant editor, was worried that the current popularity of poetry may just be a fleeting fad.
In 1918, an article published in the Dial recounted the eventful happenings in the poetry scene during the summer of 1916:
The Muse was on the make hereabouts: patronesses had been discovering her; prizes were multiplying; newspapers were giving critics their head; poetry magazines, mushrooms or hardier plants were springing up overnight; it was raining anthologies—boom times!
Richardson, Joan (1988). Wallace Stevens: The Early Years, 1879-1923.
Williams, Ellen (1977). Harriet Monroe and the Poetry Renaissance: The First Ten Years of Poetry, 1912-22.