Cover: Poets Thinking: Pope, Whitman, Dickinson, Yeats, from Harvard University PressCover: Poets Thinking in PAPERBACK

Poets Thinking

Pope, Whitman, Dickinson, Yeats

Product Details


Print on Demand

$31.00 • £26.95 • €28.95

ISBN 9780674021105

Publication Date: 04/15/2006

Academic Trade

160 pages

5-1/2 x 8 inches


Add to Cart

Educators: Request an Exam Copy (Learn more)

Media Requests:

Related Subjects

Vendler’s close readings lay bare the process of poetic reflection: Poets Thinking is about how rather than what poets think, about the act of the mind rather than any ‘embalmed thought’ that readers might want to extract from verse… Vendler is exceptionally skilled at demonstrating that poetry offers us pictures of the mind at work rather than settled axioms to take away… [Poets Thinking] has a good deal to offer in the way of thought-provoking and sometimes dazzling readings of British and American poetry.—Fiona Green, Times Literary Supplement

One of the most distinguished critics of poetry in the English-speaking world…Vendler engages in close reading to find a poem’s distinctiveness of language and literary form… Vendler is really trying to enlarge our idea of what poetry can be… In reminding us to look at and listen to the actual words on the page, and not to leap too soon to some hackneyed idea that they recall, Vendler invites us to expand our own response to experience.—Christopher Benfey, New York Review of Books

[Vendler’s] thoughtful and insightful readings of poems by Alexander Pope, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson and William Butler Yeats demonstrate the central and indeed essential role of sophisticated thinking in the poetic enterprise… To navigate the intricacies of thought that a poem contains, it is hard to imagine a better guide than Vendler herself. Her most admirable achievement is perhaps her ability to illuminate the connection between what a poem says and the formally oriented issue of how it says it. One might have expected a book explicitly on poetic thinking to neglect form, and focus only on content. But Vendler considers this approach a serious mistake, and her insights regarding form constitute the strongest argument for this position.—Troy Jollimore, San Francisco Chronicle

Some people seem surprised by the idea that poets do any thinking at all. There is a popular image of the poet as a wild, inspired, untutored and half-mad figure striding across the heath. Helen Vendler’s new book, Poet’s Thinking, if it is read as widely as it ought to be, will help considerably to correct this misperception.San Francisco Chronicle

Helen Vendler’s Poets Thinking is lucid, accessible, and inspired… Vendler’s own voice is that rare academic combination of expertise and accommodation… Her arguments provide ample explanation and exempla for the lay reader while provoking the academic to revisit old assumptions. She is at ease with the broad sweep of American and English poetry and with the critical methods of the last half-century. Her conclusions seem remarkably self-evident, a voice of trustworthiness and reason that encourages us to lean closer, to listen carefully.—Lynnell Edwards, Georgia Review

In her challenging and entertaining new book, Poets Thinking, Helen Vendler argues that poetry in all its manifestations, however ostensibly irrational, is a mode of thinking that commands not just our aesthetic appreciation but also our intellectual respect… Vendler is a wonderful elucidator of individual poems. Nobody writes more insightfully about a poem’s stylistic armature, and the emotional and intellectual purposes that armature serves. And by examining the distinctive strategies of thinking in the work of such radically different poets as Pope, Whitman, Dickinson, and Yeats, Vendler makes visible aspects of style and language that other critics simply haven’t seen.—Alan Shapiro, Harvard Magazine

Poetry is often regarded as the product of inspiration rather than intellect. Vendler seeks to emphasize the importance of thought in poetry… She shows poetic thought as reflected in poetic voice, structure, and prosody in four poets: Alexander Pope, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and W. B. Yeats… Vendler’s convincing and illuminating arguments make this book highly recommended.—Amy K. Weiss, Library Journal

Recent News

Black lives matter. Black voices matter. A statement from HUP »

From Our Blog

Jacket: Iron and Blood: A Military History of the German-Speaking Peoples since 1500, by Peter Wilson, from Harvard University Press

A Lesson in German Military History with Peter Wilson

In his landmark book Iron and Blood: A Military History of the German-Speaking Peoples since 1500, acclaimed historian Peter H. Wilson offers a masterful reappraisal of German militarism and warfighting over the last five centuries, leading to the rise of Prussia and the world wars. Below, Wilson answers our questions about this complex history,