In 2012, the U.S. Postal Service will debut a series of "Forever" stamps dedicated to U.S. poets of the 20th century. Among the poets featured will be New York Law School alumnus Wallace Stevens, Class of 1903, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. Below is an excerpt from a profile of Stevens that was printed in the Law School’s alumni magazine in 2004. To read more about the postal stamps, click here.
Wallace Stevens: Poet and Lawyer, Class of 1903
By Elizabeth Rosen and Tom Donaghy
In Brief, Spring 2004, Vol. 23, No. 2
Wallace Stevens, a graduate of New York Law School, was one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century. A full-time attorney as well as a full-time poet, Stevens had, by the time of his death in 1955, practiced insurance law for over fifty years and had published seven volumes of poetry. He had also been elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters, awarded the National Book Award (twice) and won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. In 1949 he received the Bollingen Prize in Poetry from Yale University and in 1951 the Gold Medal of the Poetry Society of America.
Wallace Stevens was born on October 2, 1879, in Reading, Pennsylvania. His father was a prosperous country lawyer and his mother, a schoolteacher. Stevens began writing as a teenager, and his poems would soon be published during his undergraduate career. He attended Harvard University as a “special student,” participating in a non-degree program where he studied art, literature, philosophy, and psychology. Once at Harvard, his poems were published in the Harvard Advocate and elsewhere. His early writing was encouraged by George Santayana, among other notable thinkers and artists of the day.
Stevens enjoyed his studies at Harvard, but his father, burdened by the expense of sending Stevens and his two brothers to school simultaneously, recommended that Stevens pursue something more pragmatic—like the law, because one could enter law school after three years of university study at that time. Stevens complied with his father’s wishes and left Harvard, working for a short time as a reporter for the New York Tribune before enrolling at New York Law School in 1901.
The poet loved New York and referred to it as “this electric town which I adore.” Sadly, New York Law School records from that time have since disappeared, so today little is known about his law studies and life at the school. What is known is that, after graduating in 1903, Stevens went to work as an associate with a large New York law firm. There he developed a specialty in analyzing insurance claims. Fluctuating economic conditions affected New York’s law firms, however, and Stevens was forced to seek new positions at least twice during the years immediately after receiving his law degree.
Stevens married a young woman from Reading, Elsie Moll, in 1909. Even though their marriage proved to be a troubled one, Stevens was devoted to his wife and eager to find employment that would bring them security. Eventually, a colleague recommended Stevens for a job with the Hartford Mutual Insurance Company. He accepted the position and in 1916 they moved to Hartford, Connecticut.
During his years in Hartford, several things happened that profoundly shaped Stevens’s life. First, his daughter Holly was born. She and her father became deeply attached and, as an adult, Holly took on the job of editing her father’s papers and letters. It was also during these years that Stevens became a company vice president and an internationally acclaimed poet.
As an active poet and an accomplished lawyer, Stevens was a rarity indeed. While some maintain that law was simply his way of earning his living, it is worth noting that even when he reached retirement age and had accumulated a comfortable sum, he kept his “day job.” The fact is, Stevens saw great depth in the practice of both law and poetry. It can be inferred from some of his writing on insurance law that he also recognized distinct similarities between the two fields. He believed that practicing insurance law required, like poetry, great imagination—one had to imagine all manner of catastrophe to determine what a policy ought to replace, he wrote at one point. Also, language is the singular tool of both lawyers and poets, and Stevens’s skill with words was apparent in both disciplines. It follows that as his poetry began to win national awards, he himself became a recognized expert in surety law.
Stevens kept both activities separate, however; few who knew him at work were aware that he was a poet until his accumulating awards began to reveal his double life. “It gives a man character as a poet to have this daily contact with a job,” he told a newspaper reporter at one point when asked why he continued at the insurance company while his fame as a poet grew.
Neither of Stevens’s dual career paths proved to be easy. His work at the insurance company demanded much of his time. And his poetry initially met with resistance. In reviewing Harmonium, his first book, Percy Hutchinson of The New York Times wrote, “From one end of the book to the other there is not an idea that can vitally affect the mind, there is not a word that can arouse emotion.”
While Stevens’s work took some time to find its audience, it did amass ardent supporters. In any event, Stevens would not compromise. When his poems were derided as arcane, he explained: “The poem must resist the intelligence almost successfully.”
The poet was 44 years old when Harmonium was published, in 1923. By that time he had been writing for over 20 years and practicing law for almost as long. Today, Harmonium is regarded as one of the 20th century’s most dazzling collections of poetry. Experimental in its use of language, it continues to spark critical examination as one of the most challenging and original collections of modern poetry. Other volumes of Stevens’s poems include Ideas of Order and Owl’s Clover (1936), The Man with the Blue Guitar (1937), Parts of a World (1942), and The Auroras of Autumn (1950). The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens appeared in 1954 to mark his 75th birthday.
Stevens’s great preoccupation in his poetry is with philosophy and meaning. Deeply influenced by thinkers as diverse as Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, and William James, he tried to dramatize the divide between reality and imagination, perception and expression. He referred to poetry as a supremely serious fiction: “After one has abandoned belief in God, poetry is that essence which takes its place as life’s redemption.” His daily walks brought him in constant contact with the natural world, and its images form a primal part of his work. “It is a terrible poverty not to live in the physical world,” he wrote.
It was during these walks that Stevens would compose his poems and consign them to his prodigious memory. Later, back at his office, he would transcribe them. It should be noted that Stevens also liked walking in New York City, to which he often traveled for business. He described walking in the city as “so unlike walking in Hartford. In Hartford, if you go out for a walk on a summer’s evening, sooner or later you will hear someone say, ‘There goes that man again.’”
Wallace Stevens continued to be industrious until the end of his life, implying that poetry was a kind of philosophy about proceeding: “It’s the way of making one’s experience, almost wholly inexplicable, acceptable.” In The Necessary Angel, a book of his essays published in 1951, he said, “My final point, then, is that imagination is the power that enables us to perceive the normal in the abnormal, the opposite of chaos in chaos.”
Stevens’s poetry has had a remarkable influence. Some of the world’s most famous literary critics have written about his work, including Helen Vendler, J. Hillis Miller, Harold Bloom, and, more recently, David Bromwich. Experts in the legal profession have also chimed in. The Stanford law professor Thomas Grey wrote a book on Stevens, titled The Wallace Stevens Case: Law and the Practice of Poetry, where he proposes that Stevens’s poetry can have a remedial effect on lawyers in helping them to overcome “the habitual and institutional rigidities of binary thought.” Stevens’s work has also exerted a profound influence on poets as diverse as John Berryman, Ann Lauterbach, Langston Hughes, and John Ashbery. Today his poems continue to attract and challenge readers, as he perhaps suspected they would. As he wrote, “It can never be satisfied, the mind, never.”
Vikings approached on moving team to Los Angeles: official
December 1, 2010
NEW YORK (Reuters) -
Two Los Angeles groups have inquired about moving the Minnesota Vikings
National Football League team to California, a Vikings official said.The
NFL currently does not have a team in Los Angeles, the nation's second
biggest market, but the Vikings saidthey had fielded enquiries."We
have been approached by two differentgroups in Los Angeles - the Ed Roski
group and more recently by former (Minnesota) Timberwolves CEO Tim Leiweke
and AEG," Vikings vice president of stadium development and public
affairs Lester Bagley said on the team's website (www.vikings.com).But
Bagley said the Vikings did not have any plans to move from Minnesota and
were focusing instead on building a world-class facility in the midwestern
state."We feelsolid momentum and feel we're well-positioned with the
new legislature and governor," Bagley said in a question-and-answer
chat.The Vikings are in the final year of their lease with the aging
Metrodome, their domed stadium in downtown Minneapolis. Bagley said team
owner Zygi Wilf and Vikings management had toured the LA
Live entertainment complex in 2009 while at an NFL owners' meeting. The
Vikings were trying to get ideas on building a similar
sports/entertainment district in Minnesota, he said.Roski's group has
plans for an $800 million stadium project in the City of Industry, a Los
Angeles suburb. Leiweke and sports-entertainment group AEG have proposed
building a privately financed billion dollar stadium next to the Staples
Center in Los Angeles .Los Angeles has been without an NFL team since the
Raiders and Rams left following the 1994 season.
Adam T. Bergonzi Named Chief Risk Officer of
National Public Finance Guarantee Corporation
November 15, 2010
ARMONK, N.Y.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--National Public Finance Guarantee Corporation (National), an indirect subsidiary of MBIA Inc. (NYSE: MBI), announced today that Adam T. Bergonzi has joined the company as Managing Director and Chief Risk Officer. Reporting to William C. Fallon, Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Bergonzi will be responsible for National's risk management activities and its insured portfolio management function.
Mr. Bergonzi joins National with extensive experience in municipal credit analysis and a deep familiarity with the bond insurance industry. He was most recently Chief Risk Officer of Municipal and Infrastructure Assurance Corporation and prior to that was the Chief Credit Officer of Security Capital Assurance. Mr. Bergonzi previously spent 12 years at MBIA Insurance Corp. where he held positions of increasing responsibility in MBIA's insured portfolio management, new business, finance and corporate strategy areas.
Mr. Bergonzi holds a B.A. degree from Colgate University (cum laude) and received his J.D. from the New York Law School.
National Public Finance Guarantee Corporation, headquartered in Armonk, New York is the world's largest U.S. public finance-only financial guarantee insurance company, with offices in New York and San Francisco. The company's financial strength is highlighted by its $5.6 billion in claims-paying resources, $2.3 billion in statutory capital and strong embedded profitability from its $481 billion insured portfolio and $5.7 billion investment portfolio. National has insurance financial strength ratings of A with a developing outlook from Standard and Poor's and Baa1 with a developing outlook from Moody's Investors Service. Please visit National's Web site at www.nationalpfg.com.
Emily Califano, Eric
Published: November 12, 2010
Califano, the daughter of Elizabeth I. Califano and Gregory R. Califano of
Spring Lake, N.J., was married Saturday evening to Eric Halden Pincow, a
son of Galina Pincow and Robert Pincow of Lawrence, N.Y. Rabbi Stephen C.
Lerner officiated at Gotham Hall in New York.
The couple, both 26, met on their first day at New York Law School, from which they received law degrees, she magna cum laude and he cum laude.
Until September, the bride was a public service lawyer for the New York City Law Department; she worked in the labor and employment division. In January she is to become an associate at the New York law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges. She graduated from Lehigh. Her father is an independent cinematographer of television commercials, working in New York.
The bridegroom is the vice president for operations at International Gold Star, an importer and distributor of specialty foods, and also at the Gold Star Smoked Fish Corporation, a manufacturer of specialty seafood, both in Brooklyn. The companies are owned by his parents. The bridegroom graduated from Cornell.
A version of this article appeared in print on November 14, 2010, on page ST14 of the New York edition.
Iona College Dedicates The Romita Auditorium and
Castle Café in Honor of Mauro Romita, Iona Alumnus, Business
Submitted by Talk of the Sou... on Mon, 11/08/2010 - 15:51.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (November 5, 2010) Iona College today dedicated the Romita Auditorium and Castle Café at the college’s new Ryan Library in honor of Mauro (“Chris”) Romita, Esq. and the Romita family. Mr. Romita is an Iona alum (class of ’61), business leader and benefactor. The Romita family contributed $100,000 to the new facilities.
At the dedication ceremony attended by New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson and other invited guests, Iona College President James A. Liguori, CFC, said: “On behalf of the entire Iona College community who will use these wonderful spaces in the Ryan Library—students, faculty, administrators and guests from our neighboring communities—we extend heartfelt thanks to Chris, his wife, Camille, and other members of the Romita family for their generous gift.”
Mr. Romita received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1961 from Iona College and, in 1965, a Juris Doctor degree from New York Law School. He joined Castle Oil Corporation in 1968. Under his leadership, the company significantly increased its sales and modernized its operational facilities to meet the demanding needs of an expanding business. The company purchased three deep water terminals within a 10-year period and has become the largest independently owned retail distributor of fuel oil and related services in the New York metropolitan area.
In addition to his duties at Castle, Mr. Romita is Chairman of the Board of Governors of Sound Shore Medical Center of Westchester. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the InnerCity Scholarship Fund of the Archdiocese of New York and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Boys Towns of Italy, Inc. and a member of the Board of Trustees of St. Joseph's Seminary.
Mr. Romita is also the recipient of many honors and awards from community and social organizations throughout New York City and Westchester including the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and the Cardinal's Award of the Westchester Division of the Cardinal's Committee of the Laity. He is also a recipient of The Bronx Means Business award from SOBRO (South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation). He is a member of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes, and of Malta, American Association, U.S.A. and recently knighted by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the Order of St. Gregory the Great.