Dickinson

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Harvard University Press, Sep 7, 2010 - Literary Criticism - 535 pages
2 Reviews
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.
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - CurrerBell - LibraryThing

This is absolutely must reading for any Dickinson scholar, for any student of American literature, for any reader turning to Dickinson for the first time, and for any longtime lover of Dickinson ... Read full review

Review: Dickinson: Selected Poems and Commentaries

User Review  - Cassandra Hawkins - Goodreads

This book is essential for students or the general public who are trying to understand Emily Dickinson. Read full review

Contents

Dickinson the Writer
1
Selected Poems and Commentaries
25
Primary Sources Cited
527
Acknowledgments
529
Index of First Lines
531
Copyright

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About the author (2010)

Emily Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts on December 10, 1830. Although one of America's most acclaimed poets, the bulk of her work was not published until well after her death on May 15, 1886. The few poems published in her lifetime were not received with any great fanfare. After her death, Dickinson's sister Lavinia found over 1,700 poems Emily had written and stashed away in a drawer -- the accumulation of a life's obsession with words. Critics have agreed that Dickinson's poetry was well ahead of its time. Today she is considered one of the best poets of the English language. Except for a year spent at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in South Hadley, Dickinson spent her entire life in the family home in Amherst, Massachusetts. She never married and began to withdraw from society, eventually becoming a recluse. Dickinson's poetry engages the reader and requires his or her participation. Full of highly charged metaphors, her free verse and choice of words are best understood when read aloud. Dickinson's punctuation and capitalization, not orthodox by Victorian standards and called "spasmodic" by her critics, give greater emphasis to her meanings.

Helen Vendler is A. Kingsley Porter University Professor at Harvard University.

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