Invisible Listeners: Lyric Intimacy in Herbert, Whitman, and Ashbery Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691116181
ISBN-10: 0691116180
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Editorial Reviews

Review

[A] compact and lively little book. . . . Vendler's brisk and light touch, her ability to pick at a line for every bit of meaning, makes this an enjoyable and moving book.

Review

Helen Vendler['s] . . . Invisible Listeners, a compact study of "lyric intimacy" in three poets, demonstrates, if you have forgotten, some of the best reasons to read literary criticism. (Langdon Hammer The New York Times Book Review )

[A] compact and lively little book. . . . Vendler's brisk and light touch, her ability to pick at a line for every bit of meaning, makes this an enjoyable and moving book. (Angela Leighton Times Literary Supplement )

As poetry is not read but re-read, so Vendler's handsome analysis should be, the art of engaged reading. (Leeta Taylor Foreword Magazine )

Product Details

  • File Size: 1020 KB
  • Print Length: 110 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 069113474X
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (February 9, 2009)
  • Publication Date: February 9, 2009
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002WJM5XW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #989,017 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I happened across this engrossing book by the Harvard professor, contemporary poetry critic Helen Hennessy Vendler, while researching the works of Walt Whitman, thinking t use it only as a revered reference, but then getting caught up in the writer's theses. This informative book it based on lectures delivered at Princeton and addressed the poets George Herbert, a 17th century poet of Godliness, the 19th century outspoken humanist Walt Whitman, and the contemporary esthete John Ashbery. Three quite different voices but each of whom Vendler sees as having a common thread: the need to find a profoundly personal intimacy with an invisible and 'imaginary' audience.

Herbert's poetry, she contends, is directed towards conversations with God, postulating verbal encounters between God and rebellious souls, and all the while yearning for his own ability to communicate with his fellowman on as intimate a level. And where Herbert was God-directed in his quest for intimacy, Whitman was man-directed, in the homoerotic sense, seeking intimacy in his poems about soldiers, patients of the Civil War hospitals, or the handsome vagabonds he encounters in his 'Song of Myself'. She compares Herbert's religious concerns with Whitman's democratic obsessions while showing with each the desperate need to communicate with that 'invisible audience'.

Vendler's thoughts on the poet John Ashbery are not as well gelled, and distance from his work in time may be the reason. Ashbery is indeed obtuse at times and it takes multiple readings to come to his level of thought.
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Format: Hardcover
I read the first chapter of this work in which Vendler outlines its main idea. She is writing about three poets, Herbert, Whitman and Ashberry each of whom has an ideal invisible listener. For Herbert it is the vertical listener 'God',for Whitman the ideal friend and companion of the future, for Ashberry the ideal listener of the past the Italian painter Parmagiano whose distorted view of reality suits Ashberry's own aesthetic.

The element of addressing 'another' of turning ('apo- strophe') to another is for Vendler an essential element of the lyric.

In this work she aims to show how the addressing is shaped by the language and style of the work to create for the poet their own method of dialogue- discourse. She speaks of how another lonely God and friend- seeker Hopkins does this , and in a sense converts the poem itself into 'listener' and ' other.

Vendler has an enormous reputation-as the Dean of contemporary critics of poetry, in great part through her readings of the work of Wallace Stevens. I must admit to not always following her complex wanderings. But often as in her elaboration of the major theme of this work, I find her writing instructive, and inspiring.

Lovers of poetry , and its explication will delight in this short work.

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