It was a dry season for poetry. No significant new voices pierced the shrill chirping of minor versifiers. What distinguished the year's poetry most was the high ambitions of its practitioners: their attempt to carve verbal order from life's chaos. Few succeeded.

One poet who perhaps came closest to succeeding was 68-year-old Wallace Stevens, a Hartford insurance man, in his latest book, Transport to Summer. W. H. Auden, an intellectual acrobat and a verbal magician, turned out 1947's most discussed book of verse: The Age of Anxiety. This modern eclogue described a chance...

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