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One of our foremost commentators on poetry examines the work of a broad range of nineteenth- and twentieth-century English, Irish, and American poets. The Ocean, the Bird, and the Scholar gathers two decades' worth of Helen Vendler's essays, book reviews, and occasional prose--including the 2004 Jefferson Lecture--in a single volume. Taken together, they serve as a reminde One of our foremost commentators on poetry examines the work of a broad range of nineteenth- and twentieth-century English, Irish, and American poets. The Ocean, the Bird, and the Scholar gathers two decades' worth of Helen Vendler's essays, book reviews, and occasional prose--including the 2004 Jefferson Lecture--in a single volume. Taken together, they serve as a reminder that if the arts and the patina of culture they cast over the world were deleted, we would, in Wallace Stevens's memorable formulation, inhabit "a geography of the dead." These essays also remind us that without the enthusiasm, critiques, and books of each century's scholars, there would be imperfect perpetuation and transmission of culture. All of the modern poets who have long preoccupied Vendler--Wallace Stevens, Seamus Heaney, John Ashbery, and Jorie Graham--are fully represented, as well as others, including Langston Hughes, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, Amy Clampitt, James Merrill, A. R. Ammons, and Mark Ford. And Vendler reaches back into the poetic tradition, tracing the influence of Keats, Yeats, Whitman, T. S. Eliot, and others in the work of today's poets. As ever, her readings help to clarify the imaginative novelty of poems, giving us a rich sense not only of their formal aspects but also of the passions underlying their linguistic and structural invention. The Ocean, the Bird, and the Scholar is an eloquent plea for the centrality, both in humanistic study and modern culture, of poetry's beautiful, subversive, sustaining, and demanding legacy.


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One of our foremost commentators on poetry examines the work of a broad range of nineteenth- and twentieth-century English, Irish, and American poets. The Ocean, the Bird, and the Scholar gathers two decades' worth of Helen Vendler's essays, book reviews, and occasional prose--including the 2004 Jefferson Lecture--in a single volume. Taken together, they serve as a reminde One of our foremost commentators on poetry examines the work of a broad range of nineteenth- and twentieth-century English, Irish, and American poets. The Ocean, the Bird, and the Scholar gathers two decades' worth of Helen Vendler's essays, book reviews, and occasional prose--including the 2004 Jefferson Lecture--in a single volume. Taken together, they serve as a reminder that if the arts and the patina of culture they cast over the world were deleted, we would, in Wallace Stevens's memorable formulation, inhabit "a geography of the dead." These essays also remind us that without the enthusiasm, critiques, and books of each century's scholars, there would be imperfect perpetuation and transmission of culture. All of the modern poets who have long preoccupied Vendler--Wallace Stevens, Seamus Heaney, John Ashbery, and Jorie Graham--are fully represented, as well as others, including Langston Hughes, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, Amy Clampitt, James Merrill, A. R. Ammons, and Mark Ford. And Vendler reaches back into the poetic tradition, tracing the influence of Keats, Yeats, Whitman, T. S. Eliot, and others in the work of today's poets. As ever, her readings help to clarify the imaginative novelty of poems, giving us a rich sense not only of their formal aspects but also of the passions underlying their linguistic and structural invention. The Ocean, the Bird, and the Scholar is an eloquent plea for the centrality, both in humanistic study and modern culture, of poetry's beautiful, subversive, sustaining, and demanding legacy.

30 review for The Ocean, the Bird, and the Scholar: Essays on Poets and Poetry

  1. 5 out of 5

    James Murphy

    You read a book like this, essays on poetry, to learn more about what you've enjoyed for years. Here are essays on individual works of poets and on entire bodies of works. Some are as old as Keats and Melville, others as current as Ashbery and Jorie Graham. Here's an essay on The Waste Land. Here's a very general essay on how the arts help us to live. I always find Vendler challenging. Sometimes she soars way above my head where I can't go, and then she's a grind. But all her essays are helpful You read a book like this, essays on poetry, to learn more about what you've enjoyed for years. Here are essays on individual works of poets and on entire bodies of works. Some are as old as Keats and Melville, others as current as Ashbery and Jorie Graham. Here's an essay on The Waste Land. Here's a very general essay on how the arts help us to live. I always find Vendler challenging. Sometimes she soars way above my head where I can't go, and then she's a grind. But all her essays are helpful and not only give me new ways of looking at some poets I'm interested in but also introduce me to others I've not read before. Ever wondered how T. S. Eliot and Allen Ginsberg are alike? She explains how. There are a couple of pieces on John Ashbery, fascinating insights into A. R. Ammons, and she addresses Seamus Heaney as classicist. She writes about the Greece of James Merrill, the nothing of Charles Wright, and the blues of Langston Hughes. The final essay is my favorite, a lovely portrait of John Berryman with a capsule analysis of The Dream Songs. That essay by itself seemed to gather for me all the strengths that had gone before and reinforced my belief that you read a challenging book like this to learn and be inspired to read more. I am.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ярослава

    У літературознавстві в мене є дві Людини,-Якими-Я-Хочу-Бути,-Коли-Виросту(ТМ): а) Стівен Ґрінблатт. Частина впізнаваної грінблаттівщини імітується легко - наприклад, метод починати розділи з анекдоток (зараз це взагалі поширений прийом, але в моду його ввели саме нові істористи під проводом СҐ); частина - ніяк не імітується, скажімо, його безмежна харизма (тут переказувала його лекцію про Лукреція, яку мала щастя почути наживо - так, мені теж абсолютно пофіг на Лукреція, але коли згадую якісь фра У літературознавстві в мене є дві Людини,-Якими-Я-Хочу-Бути,-Коли-Виросту(ТМ): а) Стівен Ґрінблатт. Частина впізнаваної грінблаттівщини імітується легко - наприклад, метод починати розділи з анекдоток (зараз це взагалі поширений прийом, але в моду його ввели саме нові істористи під проводом СҐ); частина - ніяк не імітується, скажімо, його безмежна харизма (тут переказувала його лекцію про Лукреція, яку мала щастя почути наживо - так, мені теж абсолютно пофіг на Лукреція, але коли згадую якісь фрагменти тої лекції, досі мурашки по шкірі суто від виконання). б) Гелен Вендлер. Преамбула: я дуже погана читачка поезії - себто я люблю її читати, але, скажімо, зазвичай не можу розрізнити хорошу й погану поезію, а у випадку сучасної американської поезії навіть не конче розпізнаю її як поезію. Те, як поезія викладалася в Україні, лише сприяло нерозумінню, бо в Могилянці робили наголос на емоційній сфері, а це мене якось завжди трошки лякає (я не знаю, що відчував автор! я не знаю, що мусить відчувати читач! я більшість часу не знаю, що сама відчуваю, а тут такі складні зайві умови!). Так от, амбула: Гелен Вендлер - найвпливовіший критик поезії останніх десятиліть в Америці, і я в захваті від того, як вона підходить до текстів, і хочу навчитися робити так само. Вона шалено технічна. Вона уникає всієї цієї афективної муті й веде розмову на рівні "в цьому поетичному циклі багато іменників, це дає такий ефект, а цей цикл побудований на інфінітивах, і ось яка в цього прийому літературна історія". Безперечно, за цим стоїть просто шалена ерудиція, я не можу, в мене мурашки по шкірі, коли людина побіжно робить ескурси в глибини історії одним рядком рівня "Є два основні класичні джерела довгого рядка - епічний гекзаметр і дифірамб: перший для епічного чину, другий для екстатичного висловлювання". Коротше, ви зрозуміли, я в захваті від Гелен Вендлер. (Минулого року я викладала навпроти її кабінету й ми періодично піднімалися разом на ліфті. Я била себе по руках, що не перейти в модус "Я ВАША НАЙБІЛЬША ФАНАТКА", і була дуже рада дихати з нею одним киснем.) Так от, "Океан, птаха і вчений" - збірка принагідних рецензій пера Гелен Вендлер останніх двадцяти років, споряджена автобіографічною передмовою про те, як вона йшла до поезії, а потім до вивчення поезії (ну, жінок в аспірантурі в часи її юності геть не вітали, вся ця жесть). Мені дуже подобається, як вибудувана значна частина рецензій: як інтелектуальна мандрівка. Це не готовий результат, який приголомшує несподіваністю (як у Ґрінблатта), наголос зроблено саме на процесуальність штибу "мене спантеличив цей образ, тому давайте подивимося, що він може значити, проаналізувавши всю попередню творчість автора". Хибні прочитання й бічні відгалудження при цьому не зашліфовано, є штуки рівня, дуже злегка перефразовуючи, "Тут я не розпізнала алюзію до Калевали і сказала, що це вірш про очікування смерті, а поет потім поблажливо пояснив, що насправді - про очікування любові. Ну, але головне - що про очікування, ок?" І дуже подобається її стиль, штукарство штибу. "With his Whitmanian expansiveness [Ashbery] has intorudced a loose-limbed provincial slouch into the drawing room of Wildean wit." Дізналася багато нових імен поетів ХХ-ХХІ століття, геть малознаних на наших теренах:) Це майже все не зовсім моя поезія, я люблю певну надлишковість ефектів і почуттів, а Вендлер, навпаки, дуже тихі речі, от дві показові цитати про її улюблених авторів: (1) "Важливість Ашбері, на мою думку, полягає в тому, що він - перший помітний американський поет, який вивільнився, тематично і стилістично, від ностальгії за релігійними, філософськими й ідеологічними системами. Його попередники-модерністи вважали такі системи необхідними для людської гідності ... В них завжди відчувається тяжіння до системи віри чи організованої форми колективності, пошук способу надати честі, гідності й понадособистісної важливості людському життю. Багатьом письменникам здається, що людство можна контекстуалізувати і зрозуміти лише в рамках і за посередництвом таких систем. Ашбері ж, навпаки, цілковито позбавлений релігійної віри чи політичної ідеології. І - що найважливіше - він обходиться без ностальгії за ними." (2) Чи от про Марка Форда: "Автору вдається обходитися без довгого зітхання за європейським минулим, яким живилася модерна поезія після Першої світової війни; він не імітує театрального тону Беррімена чи Платт; він цінує, попри своє обурливе штукарство, лінгвістичну рівновагу - інтелектуальну і тонку. Форд не ностальгує за втраченою Англією й не оплакує нинішніх звичаїв. Натомість він просто визнає нинішню ситуацію як форму життя, від якої втікати нікуди." Коротше, "The Ocean, the Bird, and the Scholar" - цікава демонстрація, як можна читати поезію, і заодно знайомство з певним зрізом того, що, так би мовити, носять в поезії англомовного світу. На прощання - кумедний фокус Джеймса Меррілла, який піддивилася саме тут. У циклі "Losing the Marbles" (і "втрачаючи розум", і "втрачаючи мармур" - він зокрема про грецьку античну спадщину) є вірш, який спершу подано як погано збережений фрагмент, це таке обігрування Сапфо, відомої виключно фрагментами: http://savepic.net/9597083.png А потім відтворено цілий вірш, і вони мають мало спільного (“Its “act” turns out to be a “cataract”; its “stained” is really “sustained”; its “or” an “ichor”; and its “fancy” an “infancy.”). Ну прикольно ж, нє?

  3. 5 out of 5

    David Anthony Sam

    Reading Helen Vendler as she discusses poets and their poetry is like sitting with your favorite professor, one not stuffy though erudite, one brilliant but clear. I may not agree with her exegesis of a given poem or her ultimate judgement on the worth of a given poet's work, I have to face that fact of her cogent arguments. Vendler seems to love poetry so much more than many critics who spend their time demonstrating their superiority to the art their discuss. I enjoy reading her essays and exp Reading Helen Vendler as she discusses poets and their poetry is like sitting with your favorite professor, one not stuffy though erudite, one brilliant but clear. I may not agree with her exegesis of a given poem or her ultimate judgement on the worth of a given poet's work, I have to face that fact of her cogent arguments. Vendler seems to love poetry so much more than many critics who spend their time demonstrating their superiority to the art their discuss. I enjoy reading her essays and explications nearly as much as I do the poetry itself.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ted Morgan

    Everything and anything, Helen Vendler writes has been worth my time reading. Her essays cover great ranges of periods-old and up-to-date. She never seems pedantic. She always seems engaged with the subjects of her reviews, analysis, criticism, and histories. This collection seems to me best read at random and over time. It again is a work to savor, not rush. Professor Vendler writes carefully but freely. She shares opinions but uses rhetoric and insight to frame her views. She writes as if with Everything and anything, Helen Vendler writes has been worth my time reading. Her essays cover great ranges of periods-old and up-to-date. She never seems pedantic. She always seems engaged with the subjects of her reviews, analysis, criticism, and histories. This collection seems to me best read at random and over time. It again is a work to savor, not rush. Professor Vendler writes carefully but freely. She shares opinions but uses rhetoric and insight to frame her views. She writes as if without effort but never carelessly. She writes as well on A. R. Ammons or Allen Ginsburg as she does on Herman Melville and Elizabeth Bishop or again on Mark Ford and John Ashbury (she mentions she does not always understand him). For me her essays are like the branch water that opens up my bourbon or the exposure to air for a good wine. For example, I was particularly taken with her essay on Melville. Until recently I wasn't even aware Melville was a poet and a serious one. I was able to sample his poetry through a Library of America anthology. I was stunned by how important Melville's poetry actually is. Professor Vendler explains why the poetry did not thrive with the public (neither did his later prose work including "Moby Dick". He had a dark view of life that did not correspond with what readers wanted. Vendler is the only critic I have read who reports this. That one essay is worth the price of collection. Her essay on Stevens is also fine with attention to the critical environment into which his poetry fell. The biographical account of the unhappiness Stevens endured is not psychoanalytic but simply good background on his writing. The essay is through but also brief enough to make a good introduction to the Collected Poems.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Deborah O'Grady

    Some of the most beautiful essays on poetry I've ever read. Clear, deeply probing, enlightening. I especially appreciated her take on Melville's poetry, that I previously had not known much about. Highly recommend for all poetry lovers. Some of the most beautiful essays on poetry I've ever read. Clear, deeply probing, enlightening. I especially appreciated her take on Melville's poetry, that I previously had not known much about. Highly recommend for all poetry lovers.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I’m very glad I read this. Though seemingly aimed at academics this book made my mind ponder the wonders of writing, metaphor, movement, and change. The author’s chapter on Baldwin was my favorite, but others were terrific as well. It was often slow going in making my way through this book, but that's alright. It was worth it. I’m very glad I read this. Though seemingly aimed at academics this book made my mind ponder the wonders of writing, metaphor, movement, and change. The author’s chapter on Baldwin was my favorite, but others were terrific as well. It was often slow going in making my way through this book, but that's alright. It was worth it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    Helen Vendler (born 1933) has been a major critic and commentator on American poetry for many decades. This book brings together essays that she wrote over those decades. For the most part, each essay deals with one poet. The figures whose works are discussed here are mainly American, namely Jorie Graham, Langston Hughes, Charles Wright, Allen Ginsberg, T.S. Eliot, A.R. Ammons, Amy Clampitt, Herman Melville, Robert Lowell, Wallace Stevens, James Merrill, Walt Whitman, Elizabeth Bishop, Mark Ford Helen Vendler (born 1933) has been a major critic and commentator on American poetry for many decades. This book brings together essays that she wrote over those decades. For the most part, each essay deals with one poet. The figures whose works are discussed here are mainly American, namely Jorie Graham, Langston Hughes, Charles Wright, Allen Ginsberg, T.S. Eliot, A.R. Ammons, Amy Clampitt, Herman Melville, Robert Lowell, Wallace Stevens, James Merrill, Walt Whitman, Elizabeth Bishop, Mark Ford, John Ashbery, Seamus Heaney (Irish, but long resident in the USA), Lucie Brock-Broido, and John Berryman. The only total outsiders to the American scene that are discussed are John Keats and W.B. Yeats, both in essays dealing also with an American figure. Whatever benefit scholars might draw from this collection aside, the quality of these essays in terms of enjoyment for poetry lovers varies widely. Some essays describe a poet’s aesthetic or particular poems in ways that will expand appreciation. Other essays deal with minutiae that will hold little interest for most fans of the given poet. In a few cases, the essay was little more than an opportunity for Vendler to cheerlead for a poet she was fond of, back when their place in the canon was not as secure as it eventually became.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Oisín

    Helen Vendler's versatility is very impressive. She makes it quite clear that she isn't comfortable writing about prose, and prefers to narrow her focus to almost exclusively lyric poetry. However, as this book shows, this is an extremely deep field that is infinitely variable; as is Vendler's criticism, focusing primarily on form and aesthetic, but adapting itself to poets as different as Yeats and John Berryman; Keats and Ginsberg. Her attentiveness to language is remarkable, I regularly found Helen Vendler's versatility is very impressive. She makes it quite clear that she isn't comfortable writing about prose, and prefers to narrow her focus to almost exclusively lyric poetry. However, as this book shows, this is an extremely deep field that is infinitely variable; as is Vendler's criticism, focusing primarily on form and aesthetic, but adapting itself to poets as different as Yeats and John Berryman; Keats and Ginsberg. Her attentiveness to language is remarkable, I regularly found myself feeling quite jealous of her analysis that, whilst dense, never veers into the reachy – every observation made felt like a revelation of what was already in the text. There is, however, a certain lack of creativity in Vendler's analysis; it feels rather standard, and I often found myself wishing she would take some sort of risk. Despite what might be described as an absence of quiddity in her scholarship, it is unquestionably thorough, beautifully written, and proves surprisingly entertaining for a book of poetry criticism

  9. 4 out of 5

    Zo

    Consistently wonderful and illuminating. Some of the essays I attended to less deeply than others due to interest in/familiarity with the poet, but every time I did slow down to work through Vendler's semi-difficult prose I found myself rewarded for it. Reading her essays combines the satisfaction of intellectual discovery with the transmission of the emotion in the poems she's writing about. I think she has a deep understanding of the depth criticism can attain, but also the limits of what crit Consistently wonderful and illuminating. Some of the essays I attended to less deeply than others due to interest in/familiarity with the poet, but every time I did slow down to work through Vendler's semi-difficult prose I found myself rewarded for it. Reading her essays combines the satisfaction of intellectual discovery with the transmission of the emotion in the poems she's writing about. I think she has a deep understanding of the depth criticism can attain, but also the limits of what criticism can do, and she settles into the perfect medium in her writing. Now I just need to read more of the actual poetry she writes about.

  10. 4 out of 5

    some mushroom dude

    i'm just gonna add this here i am not even close to finishing it and i don't know how much i'll be "currently reading" it -- it's by turns quite good and infuriating -- currently infuriating i'm just gonna add this here i am not even close to finishing it and i don't know how much i'll be "currently reading" it -- it's by turns quite good and infuriating -- currently infuriating

  11. 5 out of 5

    Leonard

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kayla

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bob Wratz

  14. 5 out of 5

    S.C. Hickman

  15. 5 out of 5

    Omar

  16. 4 out of 5

    Larry Mc Ilvoy

  17. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Louderback

  18. 4 out of 5

    Dan Blackaby

  19. 4 out of 5

    María

  20. 4 out of 5

    Frank Delaere

  21. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Masse

  22. 4 out of 5

    Allison

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nathan May

  24. 5 out of 5

    Richard

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cecilia Dunbar Hernandez

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bob Sommer

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bob Cat

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mark

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dave

  30. 5 out of 5

    John Pappas

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