Helen Vendler

Inside Emily Dickinson's Revealing Lost Papers
March 21, 2014

Every transcription of handwriting into print misses something. With Dickinson's manuscripts, transcriptions miss a whole lot.

Wallace Stevens' Voice Was "Life-Saving"
November 18, 2013

"The quiet authority of Wallace Stevens' voice entered my mind like a life-saving transfusion."

My Memories of Seamus Heaney
October 03, 2013

In his eulogy of Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon told the story of being asked at Customs, on his arrival for the funeral, what he did for a living; when he replied that he taught poetry, the Customs officer said, “You must be devastated.”

The Tragedy in the Bedroom
A masterpiece of Victorian adultery
April 21, 2013

In 1862, George Meredith published a sonnet sequence about adultery. It still has its power, if not its power to shock.

Dante’s Vita Nova
October 05, 2012

What happens when you try to translate Dante's poetry into "contemporary American English"

The Art of the Inexplicit
January 11, 2012

The Deleted WorldBy Tomas TranströmerVersions by Robin Robertson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 41 pp., $13) The Great Enigma: New Collected PoemsBy Tomas TranströmerTranslated by Robin Fulton (New Directions, 262 pp., $17.95) Thirty-six years ago, I wrote that Tomas Tranströmer’s verses were “poems of an almost prehistoric sort, with their severe music and their archaic austerity of language.” Thirteen years ago, reviewing the New Collected Poems, I reported the common opinion concerning the Swedish poet—that “Tranströmer is frequently, and justly, mentioned as a poet deserving the [Nobel] priz

The Instructors
August 24, 2011

W.B. Yeats & George Yeats: The Letters Edited by Ann Saddlemyer (Oxford University Press, 599 pp., $49.95) Words Alone: Yeats & his Inheritances By R.F. Foster (Oxford University Press, 236 pp., $29.95) IT WAS CERTAINLY an odd marriage. The groom, already a well-known Irish poet, was fifty-two, the bride twenty-four. The groom had proposed to two other women immediately before settling for the bride, a well-bred young Englishwoman whom he had known for several years and with whom he shared occult interests.

The Worn-Out Heart
December 02, 2010

Canti By Giacomo Leopardi Translated and annotated by Jonathan Galassi (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 498 pp., $35) Imagine yourself a genius trapped in a small Italian town under the thumb of two dictatorial parents: a mother who is such a fanatical Catholic that she thinks the best fate for a child is an early death, so that he can go to heaven with the fewest possible sins; and a father who is a political reactionary and who has ruined the family fortune, so that although the family has land, there is no cash (or at least none that the mother, bent on restoring the lost wealth, will disburse).

The Art of Antithesis
June 02, 2010

The Bars of Atlantis: Selected EssaysBy Durs Grünbein Translated by John Crutchfield, Michael Hofmann, and Andrew Shields (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 323 pp., $35) Descartes’ Devil: Three MeditationsBy Durs Grünbein Translated by Anthea Bell (Upper West Side Philosophers, 136 pp., $25.95) Durs Grünbein’s scintillating essays flare up off the page in extravagant fashion, displaying here a philosopher (Seneca, Nietzsche), there the natural world (deep-sea fishes); here a poet (Hölderlin, Rilke), there an obsession (addictive diving).

Between the Potency and the Existence
April 20, 2010

The Letters of T.S. Eliot: Volume 1 (1898–1922) Edited by Valerie Eliot and Hugh Haughton (Faber and Faber, 871 pp., £35) The Letters of T.S. Eliot: Volume 2 (1923–25) Edited by Valerie Eliot and Hugh Haughton (Faber and Faber, 878 pp., £35)  In these two volumes we find more than 1,600 pages of letters and T.S. Eliot is not yet forty.

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