The Readers Review: Literature from 1800 to 1910 discussion

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Notepad--Book Recommendations > New Book! "Dickinson--Selected Poems and Commentaries" by Helen Vendler

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message 1: by Christopher (new)

Christopher H. (christopher_h) | 1483 comments Mod
I found an excellent little review in the Sunday (September 12, 2010) Los Angeles Times, "Arts & Culture" section. Susan Salter Reynolds wrote a review of a new book on Emily Dickinson's poetry. The book is entitled Dickinson: Selected Poems and Commentaries, published by Harvard University Press, 530 pp., $35.

Here's Ms. Reynolds' review--
"I'm just a regular reader, you say. I read for pleasure. Why should I read the commentaries of critic Helen Vendler on the "epigrammatic, terse, abrupt, surprising, unsettling, flirtatious, savage, winsome, metaphysical, provocative, blasphemous, tragic, funny" poems of an isolated New England poet? I know, I know. First, Emily Dickinson is the sorcerer's stone. Her poetry contains, no, is, the most essential, passionate use of English and the most essential, passionate connection between the English language and nature (our nature, birds and bees nature, God's nature). So you've got to plant her somewhere in your garden, even if it's a tiny corner with no sun. Second, while commentary on poetry is rarely a good idea, Dickinson's spare use of words are just the tip of her iceberg; the waters below contain so many secrets that it truly helps to have a guide to the meter, the myth, the thread of dreams. Third, if you're going to hire a guide, you may as well have the best, and Vendler is the best. It's like, I don't know, reading Virginia Woolf on Alice Munro; it's like Brillat-Savarin on Alice Waters, it's like Leonardo da Vinci on Robert Motherwell. Life is short. Go to the top."
I cross-posted this review in our "Poet's Corner" folder, and added the volume to our group bookshelf.


message 2: by Aimeesue (new)

Aimeesue | 1 comments I have this book Chris - it's excellent. Added bonus: I bought my copy at Emily's house in Amherst when I was visiting last summer. Vendler's is a fabulous close reader. Very insightful.


message 3: by Christopher (new)

Christopher H. (christopher_h) | 1483 comments Mod
It is truly superb, Aimeesue! I dip into it off and on, and always learn something new about Dickinson and her poetry.


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The Readers Review: Literature from 1800 to 1910

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Dickinson: Selected Poems and Commentaries (other topics)