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Our Secret Discipline: Yeats and Lyric Form Hardcover – 8 Nov 2007

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...revelatory in its approach... (Matthew M. Deforrest, Essays in Criticism)

This is a wonderful-probably the best-book for the Yeatsian enthusiast to take down and dip into, and a fitting monument to Vendler's performances on Yeats which have been an inspiration to listeners over the years. (Bernard O'Donoghue The Review of English Studies)

It's high time such a book existed, and the conditions have been ripe for a while for a re-examination of Yeats's prosody and its relation to poetic thinking. (Ian Patterson, Times Higher Education Supplement)

About the Author

Helen Vendler is the A. Kingsley Porter University Professor at Harvard University. Her books on poetry include Poets Thinking: Pope, Whitman, Dickinson, Yeats, Coming of Age as a Poet: Milton, Keats, Eliot, Plath, Seamus Heaney, and The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
"Whatever I do," Yeats cried out in a 1926 letter, "poetry will remain a torture" (#4952). Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 7 reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Science meets art 24 Mar 2009
By Angelo Mao - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The fact that Helen Vendler majored in chemistry in college and got a Fulbright Fellowship for mathematics is evident in this book.

Dense? Yes. Intimidating? That, too. But comprehensive, based on evidence, insightful, and ultimately illuminating? Very much so. Vendler is scientific and logical -- one might even say, endowed with a good dollop of common sense. She doesn't intuit a claim and force evidence to prove it; she appraises the data -- i.e. the most obvious elements of a poem, its stylistic characteristics -- and tries to explain, why? and answer, what does it do? Sometimes, the analysis and conclusion will be more convincing than others, but the efforts are never less than impressive. This is as much a book revealing the depth of Yeats's art as it is a revelation of the possibilities of lyric form and a reminder to contemporary poets that there's an amazing and often overlooked arsenal available in rhyme, meter, and other elements of poetic style.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Superlative, Enlightening, Non-Pedantic, Jargon-Free Criticism 28 Oct 2010
By Seoigheach - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Vendler's book is an extended application of close-reading scholarship to the poems of Yeats, with particular emphasis on the metrical structures of the poems. Lest that summary leave the impression that it is an arid technical exercise, I should stress that this fine book offers immense benefits to a potentially large readership, including: (1) anyone who enjoys Yeats and wants to deepen that appreciation, (2) students and scholars of English poetry, especially prosody, and (3) intelligent readers in general who would like to experience close reading analysis at the feet of an expert. Admirers in category (1) will come away with a new dimension to their love for Yeats. Those in category (2) may be surprised to discover how hard and how thoroughly Yeats applied himself to technical aspects of English prosody, and will probably take a new look at other poets. The book could be read in sections, and would thus easily lend itself to a supplementary role in a literature course, but I would recommend reading it all the way through. Finally, it is well-written.
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
A wonderful explainer 15 Mar 2008
By Ralph Metheny - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I thank Helen Vendler for explaining the meaning of many familiar lines, such as these (from different poems): "That is no country for old men", "And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?", and "The silver apples of the moon, the golden apples of the sun".
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Not purely academic 4 May 2013
By Tim McGrath - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The best thing in the book is her deconstruction of "An Irish Airman Foresees his Death," one of the greatest poems in the universe. And by "deconstruction," I don't mean any theoretical nonsense. I mean the way she linguistically takes the stanzas apart. She's especially good with the final one, a quatrain as tight as an equation:

I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.

It's always nice to meet someone who loves those lines as much as you do. She was less successful with another favorite, "The Double Vision of Michael Robartes," a clear presentation of the anima archetype. She might benefit from reading James Olney's "The Rhizome and the Flower," which doesn't address "Robartes" directly but does tie Yeats to Jung and the pre-Socratics.

Although she likes to speak "ex cathedra," Vendler is not infallible. I once had the distinct displeasure of hearing her compare A. R. Ammons to Keats, Wordsworth, and Thomas Gray. I haven't forgiven her yet.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A gift to the world of poetry and poets. 9 Dec 2012
By jose carrillo - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Helen Vendler's 2007 collection of essays on Yeats are indispensable for anyone wishing a deeper appreciation of the great poet's craft; Ms. Vendler's scholarship and attention to detail is a wondrous gift to the world of poetry and poets.
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