To know the poetry of our time, to look through its lenses and filters, is to see our lives illuminated. In these eloquent essays on recent American, British, and Irish poetry, Helen Vendler shows us contemporary life and culture captured in lyric form by some of our most celebrated poets. An incomparable reader of poetry, Vendler explains its power; it is, she says, the voice of the soul rather than the socially marked self speaking directly to us through the stylization of verse. “Soul Says,” the title of a poem by Jorie Graham, is thus the name of this collection. In essays on Seamus Heaney, Donald Davie, Allen Ginsberg, John Ashbery, Rita Dove, Jorie Graham, and others, Vendler makes difficult poetry accessible. She reveals the idiosyncratic nature of lyric form, and points out the artistic choices present in even the simplest texts. Vendler examines the use of abstraction in lyric poems; considers what readers seek and receive from verse; describes the role of such stylistic devices as compression, structural dynamics, and syntactic ordering; and renders a wide variety of poetic styles meaningful. Through her perceptive eyes we see how lyric poetry, speaking with natural musicality and rhythm, can by arrangement, pacing, metaphor, and tone create symbol from fact—and fill us with new understanding. In these direct and engaged commentaries, she explores the force, beauty, and intellectual complexity of contemporary lyric verse.