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The Idea of Order at Key West

The Idea of Order at Key West

by Wallace Stevens

Literature and Writing Theme

For Stevens, the poet's job goes beyond putting words together in interesting ways (sorry, Jay Z). He believes the poet has the power to actually complete the natural world, to help all of us experience reality more fully. In some ways, the sea that we experience when we go to the beach is the sea we've been taught to see by writers and artists. And in the context of "The Idea of Order at Key West," the act of writing becomes the act of making the internal world of imagination into an external, concrete reality through the artistic product—whether that's a poem or a song.

Questions About Literature and Writing

  1. Is it possible for one person's reality to be affected by another person's imagination, or is Stevens overestimating the power of art and poetry? Why do you think so?
  2. Wallace thinks poetry is pretty powerful stuff. Do you agree with Wallace, or is there another art form that packs more of a perception-altering punch? Why?
  3. In "The Idea of Order at Key West," the internal world of imagination and the external, natural world are connected in a very complex interdependent way. Do you feel this connection in your own life, or do you think the imagination and reality are totally separate, independent things? 
  4. Why do you think so?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Sorry, Wally. Imagination and reality are opposites. Imagination is internal and reality is external. One does not affect the other.

The poem show how our imaginations are influenced by the world around us and how we perceive the world around us is colored by our imaginations. Reality and imagination are intertwined. (Sorry, though—imagining you've already finished your paper on Stevens won't make it a reality.)

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