Our Secret Discipline: Yeats and Lyric Form


Product Details

Belknap Press
Publish Date
6.68 X 9.38 X 1.11 inches | 1.6 pounds

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About the Author

Helen Vendler is A. Kingsley Porter University Professor at Harvard University.


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...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)" (8/20/2007 12:00:00 AM)
Helen Vendler has entirely consumed William Butler Yeats...As she leads us by the hand through some of the best-known poems in the English language, we discover how little we knew about them after all, and how hard the poet worked to make them sound...inevitable. Our Secret Discipline is so much an intellectual feast.--John Leonard "Harper's" (12/1/2007 12:00:00 AM)
Vendler can be as charming a tour guide through Yeats as she is a learned one. And her frame of examining Yeats's external and internal lyric structures offers a new, insightful, and often revelatory map of Yeatsian terrain.--Tess Taylor "Barnes and Noble Review" (12/3/2007 12:00:00 AM)
Is there any critic more thorough than Helen Vendler?... Her carefulness, her attention to minutiae, is a rare quality, particularly when set against the current mores of poetry criticism, which, for all its highly technical vocabulary, has been for many years an enterprise largely impressionistic...Any serious reader of English poetry should be delighted that, in Our Secret Discipline, she has turned her attention to the question of form in W.B. Yeats's poetry.--Sam Munson "New York Sun" (12/12/2007 12:00:00 AM)
A book whose value may exceed anything [Vendler] has hitherto produced. It is the first exhaustive account of Yeats's lyric styles as they revealed themselves in 50 years of verse forms as the necessary and skilled embodiment of the poet's moral urgency. Vendler is the ideal close reader and listener to undertake the very large task of coming to terms with Yeats's poetry...The great merit of Vendler's approach is that she never rests content with merely identifying and describing Yeats's formal choices but goes on to consider how such forms are employed in the service of moral and human content...She is intrepid and only occasionally over-ingenious...Readers who have assumed they were familiar, even intimate, with his body of lyric verse will read Vendler's pages and find their eyes have been opened, in Hart Crane's words, to new thresholds, new anatomies.--William H. Pritchard "Boston Globe" (2/17/2008 12:00:00 AM)
[A] superb study of Yeats's uses of lyric form...Vendler offers much astute description of the architecture of Yeats's poems, but also considers the way in which his forms reflected his cultural vision...It certainly helps enormously to have a critic as expert as Vendler describe in slow motion, frame by frame, so to speak, her understanding of the effects of each choice the poet makes. Her shrewd, tightly focused commentaries encourage us to take each poem slowly, on its own terms, and to pay attention in particular to tbe ways in which it either conforms to or confounds the expectations it fosters...Vendler's study of his uses of lyric form is an indispensable guide to anyone interested in the means whereby Yeats transfigured into masterful images the random contingencies of life.--Mark Ford "New York Review of Books" (4/3/2008 12:00:00 AM)
[Vendler's] chapters on Yeats's Byzantium lyrics, his courtly ottava rima poems and his blank verse are all filled with sensitive, compelling insights that will be critical guideposts for years to come.--Anthony Cuda "Washington Post Book World" (4/20/2008 12:00:00 AM)