Seamus Heaney, Denis Donoghue, William Pritchard, Marilyn Butler, Harold Bloom, and many others have praised Helen Vendler as one of the most attentive readers of poetry. Here, Vendler turns her illuminating skills as a critic to 150 selected poems of Emily Dickinson.Read more...
Seamus Heaney, Denis Donoghue, William Pritchard, Marilyn Butler, Harold Bloom, and many others have praised Helen Vendler as one of the most attentive readers of poetry. Here, Vendler turns her illuminating skills as a critic to 150 selected poems of Emily Dickinson. As she did in "The Art of Shakespeare s Sonnets," she serves as an incomparable guide, considering both stylistic and imaginative features of the poems.
In selecting these poems for commentary Vendler chooses to exhibit many aspects of Dickinson s work as a poet, from her first-person poems to the poems of grand abstraction, from her ecstatic verses to her unparalleled depictions of emotional numbness, from her comic anecdotes to her painful poems of aftermath. Included here are many expected favorites as well as more complex and less often anthologized poems. Taken together, Vendler s selection reveals Emily Dickinson s development as a poet, her astonishing range, and her revelation of what Wordsworth called the history and science of feeling.
In accompanying commentaries Vendler offers a deeper acquaintance with Dickinson the writer, the inventive conceiver and linguistic shaper of her perennial themes. All of Dickinson s preoccupations death, religion, love, the natural world, the nature of thought are explored here in detail, but Vendler always takes care to emphasize the poet s startling imagination and the ingenuity of her linguistic invention. Whether exploring less familiar poems or favorites we thought we knew, Vendler reveals Dickinson as a master of a revolutionary verse-language of immediacy and power. Dickinson: Selected Poems and Commentaries will be an indispensable reference work for students of Dickinson and readers of lyric poetry. "
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2010-07-26
- Reviewer: Staff
Vendler stands among America's most respected critics. This big book of informed, sometimes witty, always thoughtful and determinedly accessible commentaries follows the model of Vendler's The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets; 150 poems by Emily Dickinson appear alongside essays explaining how to read each one. Vendler (a professor at Harvard) explains Dickinson's intricate, fast-changing metaphors, her emotional extremes, her metrical oddities, and her frequent dissent from organized religion, "the unbeliever commenting on the deluded faithful." Contrary to stereotype, the Dickinson here is less eccentric than deeply ambitious, unwilling to compromise in her search for the right words, the right work of art, the right spirit of life: beneath one late, flirtatious poem's "mischievous play... lies the yearning of the unique Dickinson for a natural companion resembling herself." The collection anticipates readers who will open it up at random, read through at leisure, or else search for a specific poem: it may overwhelm those who attempt to read it straight through. Yet that depth, that concentration on single poem after single poem, is one source of its strength: riddling, idiosyncratic, sometimes coy, and extraordinarily intelligent, Dickinson's poems respond almost ideally to the analysis Vendler is best equipped to give. (Sept.)