In this graceful book, Helen Vendler brings her remarkable skills to bear on a number of Stevens’s short poems. She shows us that this most intellectual of poets is in fact the most personal of poets; that his words are not devoted to epistemological questions alone but are also “words chosen out of desire.”
[This book] tells the reader a good deal more about Wallace Stevens’s poetry and Stevens as a poet than many a weighty tome… The shining merit of these lectures is their capacity to elucidate single poems, some familiar anthology pieces, others much less familiar, so that they stand alone as comprehensible entities. The key to this success is the devotion that has accompanied her patience, a devotion that responds, in particular, to the warmth and sadness, the emotional depth, that Vendler finds in Stevens… Those readers who have sensed both the urgency of feeling and the forlornness in Stevens’s poems, but have found the obliquities of his manner and diction often impenetrable, will be grateful for the tact and moderation of these fresh interpretations. Their special achievements are that they convince, movingly and with a simplicity not often found in Stevens commentary, and that they then leave the poem to reassemble in the mind as wholly itself.
[Vendler] has found the right way to talk about [Stevens], and is quite right to say that he is a genuinely misunderstood poet. On the very late poems she is exceptionally good and provides some reasons for the belief (which I share) that they are great poems indeed… She writes throughout with admirable firmness… Altogether this little book seems to me a triumph.
- 86 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
From this author
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