Synopses & Reviews
Listen to a short interview with Helen Vendler Host: Chris Gondek | Producer: Heron and Crane The fundamental difference between rhetoric and poetry, according to Yeats, is that rhetoric is the expression of one's quarrels with others while poetry is the expression (and sometimes the resolution) of one's quarrel with oneself. This is where Helen Vendler's Our Secret Discipline
begins. Through exquisite attention to outer and inner forms, Vendler explores the most inventive reaches of the poet's mind. This book is a space-clearing gesture, an attempt to write about lyric forms in Yeats in unprecedented and comprehensive ways. The secret discipline of the poet is his vigilant attention to forms--whether generic, structural, or metrical. Yeats explores the potential of such forms to give shape and local habitation to volatile thoughts and feelings.
Helen Vendler remains focused on questions of singular importance: Why did Yeats cast his poems into the widely differing forms they ultimately took? Can we understand Yeats's poetry better if we pay attention to inner and outer lyric form? Chapters of the book take up many Yeatsian ventures, such as the sonnet, the lyric sequence, paired poems, blank verse, and others. With elegance and precision, Vendler offers brilliant insights into the creative process and speculates on Yeats's aims as he writes and rewrites some of the most famous poems in modern literature.
"One of the world's most respected poetry critics, and a Harvard professor, Vendler began her career with a short book about W.B. Yeats's prose and plays (Yeats's Vision and the Later Plays). This new monumental study of the technical (and, ultimately, emotional) accomplishment in Yeats's poems represents something close to a life's work: it will surely attract international attention. Like Vendler's The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets, this volume looks at the way a great poet put individual poems together, and at why 'the formal shapes of a temporal art' work as they do. A preliminary chapter looks at form, proportion and meter in three famous poems; later installments consider the progress of the 'series of technical investigations' in his sometimes airy, incantatory early verse; the 'efforts to combine high and low' speech that marked his ballads; his anxious, and finally majestic, Irish transformations of the originally English-and-Italian sonnet; and his metamorphosis of the eight-line stanza (ottava rima) into a fit motor for the masterpiece 'Among School Children.' Vendler's careful book will likely advance the way experts see Yeats, but she also speaks to all the readers who care about the Irish Nobelist's body of poetry, which looks more complex, and more delightful, through Vendler's lens." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
The fundamental difference between rhetoric and poetry, according to Yeats, is that rhetoric is the expression of one's quarrels with others while poetry is the expression (and sometimes the resolution) of one's quarrel with oneself. This is where Vendler's Our Secret Discipline begins. Through exquisite attention to outer and inner forms, Vendler explores the most inventive reaches of the poet's mind.
About the Author
Helen Vendler is A. Kingsley Porter University Professor at Harvard University.
Table of Contents
I. Lyric Form in Yeats's Poetry: Prophecy, Love, and Revolution
II. Antechamber and Afterlife: Byzantium and the Delphic Oracle
III. The Puzzle of Sequence: Two Political Poems
IV. "Magical" Techniques in the Early Poems
V. Tales, Feelings, Farewells: Three Stages of the Yeatsian Ballad
VI. Troubling the Tradition: Yeats at Sonnets
VII. The Nationalist Measure: Trimeter-Quatrain Poems
VIII. Marches and the Examination of Conscience: The Tetrameter Line
IX. The Medium of Instruction: Doctrine in Blank Verse
X. The Renaissance Aura: Ottava Rima Poems
XI. The Spacious Lyric: Long Stanzas, Irregular Lines
XII. Primitivism and the Grotesque: "Supernatural Songs"
XIII. Rare Forms