Herman Melville Lecture on the Creative Imagination
"Yeats and Lyric Poetry"
NYS Writers Institute Reading - November 20, 2002
4:15 p.m. Informal Seminar | Standish Room, New Library
8:00 p.m. Reading | Recital Hall, PAC
Helen Vendler is regarded by many as the most influential and probably the most widely read critic of poetry in the United States. Since the mid-1960s she has contributed numerous reviews and articles on poetry to prominent literary publications. In addition, she has published several collections of her essays and reviews as well as acclaimed book-length studies of the works of poet W.B. Yeats, George Herbert, Wallace Stevens, John Keats, William Shakespeare, and Seamus Heaney. Her criticism is praised for its insightful examinations of the style and content of individual poems as opposed to the literary theory and ideology behind each piece. Phoebe Pettingell in the New Leader explains Venders unique ability to address the lay reader as well as the academic saying, "She directs her observations straight at the heart of the matters, so that her readers may recognize at once what she finds so marvelous in a poem." William H. Pritchard in the New Republic describes Vendler as "the best poetry reviewer in America."
Vendler did not concentrate on English as an undergraduate. Instead she earned her degree in chemistry and was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship in mathematics before receiving her Ph.D. in English and American literature from Radcliffe. Her dissertation became the basis of her first book, Yeats's 'Vision' and the Later Plays (1963). Her next book, On Extended Wings (1969), an examination of Wallace Stevens' longer poems, garnered the attention of the critics. Harold Bloom on the New York Times Book Review noted that the book "ought to be read, with care and gratitude, by every reader of Stevens, for no critic before her has understood so well his major poems." Vendler's book The Poetry of George Herbert (1975) received similar praise.
Part of Nature, Part of Us (1980), a collection of Vendler's reviews and essays published between 1966 and 1979, was the unanimous choice for the National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism. John Bayley in the Times Literary Supplement described the book as "a comprehensive and highly authoritative picture of the American poetry scene."
Vendler's other works include The Odes of John Keats (1983), Wallace Stevens: Words Chosen Out of Desire (1984), The Music of What Happens (1988), The Breaking of Style: Hopkins, Heaney, Graham (1995), Soul Says: On Recent Poetry (1995), and Seamus Heaney (1998). The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets (1997), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, contains all of Shakespeare's 154 sonnets, followed by Vendler's commentary. Coming of Age as a Poet, a collection of her James Murray Brown Lectures, will be published in spring 2003.
Vendler is currently the A. Kingsley Porter University Professor at Harvard University where she has taught since 1980.
Other Books by Helen Vendler:
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or online at http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.