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The Idea of Order at Key West

The Idea of Order at Key West


by Wallace Stevens

The Idea of Order at Key West Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. Stevens broke "The Idea of Order at Key West" into six stanzas. What do you think of Stevens' idea of order for this poem? Why did he choose to break the stanzas where he did? For example, why is stanza four so long in comparison to the other stanzas?
  2. To develop the extended metaphor of artist-poet, Stevens chose to use the figure of a singer at the sea shore. Did Stevens make a good choice? Why or why not? What are some other directions Stevens could have gone? Try coupling some other figures with other locations and see if they could work as extended metaphors for the artist. (Football player in a china shop? Sheep at a wool factory? Let your imagination loose on this one.)
  3. Is the personification of the sea necessary for Stevens' poem to work? What would be lost if the sea was not personified?
  4. "The Idea of Order at Key West" is written in blank verse. How would this poem change if it wasn't in iambic pentameter? Is there a connection between the meter and any of the main themes or ideas in the poem? Why or why not?
  5. What other titles could Stevens have considered for this poem? How would the new titles change the reading of the poem? What aspects of the poem would be heightened or lost with the new title options?
  6. Imagine yourself in the poem, strolling along the beach with Wallace and Ramon. Would you have anything to add? What questions would you ask? Why?

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