Dickinson Selected poems and commentaries

Emily Dickinson, 1830-1886

Book - 2010

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Cambridge, Mass. : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press 2010.
Main Author
Emily Dickinson, 1830-1886 (-)
Other Authors
Helen Vendler, 1933- (-)
Physical Description
xiv, 535 p. ; 25 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • Introduction: Dickinson the writer
  • Selected poems and commentaries.
Review by Choice Review

These commentaries on a selection of Dickinson's poems are best summed up in one word: brilliant. Skeptics who might be inclined to question whether anyone has anything new to say about Dickinson's oeuvre nearly 125 years after her death will find that the answer to that question is a resounding yes. Vendler (Harvard) manages to offer original, insightful observations about Dickinson's humor, her pain, her metaphysical abstractions, and her syntactical inversions. The poems Vendler includes are keyed by poem number to Ralph Franklin's definitive The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Reading Edition (1999), and Vendler discusses the subtleties and nuances of Dickinson's verses through a scrupulous examination of the linguistic, stylistic, and imaginative choices the poet made. One of the strengths of the volume is its user-friendly structure. Vendler includes 150 poems (of the nearly 2,000 that Dickinson wrote)--many frequently anthologized and many that have engendered little criticism thus far--and follows each verse with a three-to-four-page commentary that examines Dickinson through a wide and discerning lens. This delightful volume is a wonderful resource. Summing Up: Essential. All readers. D. D. Knight SUNY College at Cortland

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Vendler stands among America's most respected critics. This big book of informed, sometimes witty, always thoughtful and determinedly accessible commentaries follows the model of Vendler's The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets; 150 poems by Emily Dickinson appear alongside essays explaining how to read each one. Vendler (a professor at Harvard) explains Dickinson's intricate, fast-changing metaphors, her emotional extremes, her metrical oddities, and her frequent dissent from organized religion, "the unbeliever commenting on the deluded faithful." Contrary to stereotype, the Dickinson here is less eccentric than deeply ambitious, unwilling to compromise in her search for the right words, the right work of art, the right spirit of life: beneath one late, flirtatious poem's "mischievous play... lies the yearning of the unique Dickinson for a natural companion resembling herself." The collection anticipates readers who will open it up at random, read through at leisure, or else search for a specific poem: it may overwhelm those who attempt to read it straight through. Yet that depth, that concentration on single poem after single poem, is one source of its strength: riddling, idiosyncratic, sometimes coy, and extraordinarily intelligent, Dickinson's poems respond almost ideally to the analysis Vendler is best equipped to give. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Vendler (English, Harvard Univ.; Last Looks, Last Books) has published widely on poetry, including works on Shakespeare's sonnets, Yeats, Wallace Stevens, Keats, and more. In this volume she provides close readings of 150 of Emily Dickinson's poems. Vendler states that this is a book "to be browsed in, as the reader becomes interested in one or another of the poems." Some of her choices will be recognized by most readers, such as "Wild nights/ Wild nights!" and "My Life had stood/ a Loaded Gun." Other poems may be vaguely familiar, and some will likely be a first reading for those who have not previously immersed themselves in the world of Dickinson. Vendler's commentaries are not daunting. They are written in an accessible style and mostly span two or three pages, yet her comparative brevity runs deep. VERDICT This work by a well-established scholar belongs in most academic and public libraries. Both casual readers and scholars of Dickinson alike will want to purchase it.-Stacy Russo, Chapman Univ. Libs., Orange, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.