According to Stevens, the conditions of reality establish the conditions for the imagination, which ostensibly transcends the real before it settles into poems, whose words and forms predate the audacious imaginative flights they embody. This cycle is as fixed and deterministic as a Ferris wheel, but there is amnesia built into the process, so it always feels final. Otherwise the elation going up might not be so profound, the disappointment going down so devastating. Stevens’s characteristic form, in his mature work, is the three-line stanza, inherited from Dante, Tennyson, and others; as his intelligence moves through these little spheres, it experiences countless beginnings and endings, until the two are synonymous and inseparable. This is a disaster for beginnings, which are seen as veiled endings, but an extraordinary boon for endings, which are reconceived as fresh starts.

Dan Chiasson, “The Grand Poem”