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The Music of What Happens


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments Introduction Part I: On Criticism 1. The Function of Criticism 2. Looking for Poetry in America 3. Critical Models: On Geoffrey Hartman 4. Defensive Harmonies: On Harold Bloom 5. The Medley Is the Message: On Roland Barthes 6. The Hunting of Wallace Stevens: Critical Approaches Part II: On Poetry 7. Lionel Trilling and Wordsworth's Immortality Ode 8. Keats and the Use of Poetry 9. Reading Walt Whitman Part III: On Poets 10. Seamus Heaney 11. Stephen Spender: Journals and Poems 12. Donald Davie: Self-Portraits in Verse 13. Ted Hughes 14. Czeslaw Milosz 15. John Ashbery, Louise Gluck 16. Allen Ginsberg 17. Sylvia Plath 18. Elizabeth Bishop 19. Anne Sexton 20. A. R. Ammons: Dwelling in the Flow of Shapes Part IV: Recent Writing 21. James Merrill 22. Adrienne Rich, Jared Carter, Philip Levine 23. Charles Wright 24. Amy Clampitt 25. Dave Smith 26. Frank Bidart 27. Michael Blumenthal 28. Louise Gluck, Stephen Dunn, Brad Leithauser,

About the Author

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


Following The Harvard Book of Contemporary Poetry ( LJ 11/15/85), Vendler's hand-picked anthology of 20th-century American poets, this collection of recent essays gives us deeper insight into the poets Vendler admires. Vendler focuses on a work's uniqueness rather than its meaning or ideology. Like French critic Roland Barthes, she insists that pleasure motivates writers, and her own favorites (Stevens, Merrill, Ammons, Ashbery) prefer invention to social or psychological realism. Vendler sniffs out sloppy writing and overstatement with deadly accuracy: to a poet's claim that Anne Sexton suffered from ``the problematic position of women,'' she asks: ``Was it the problematic position of men . . . that created personal trouble in John Berryman's life?'' Recommended for academic and large public libraries.Lisa Mullenneaux, Iowa City, Ia.

Vendler's is an ample book...and will give us enough to go on digesting and arguing about, approving and resisting, for a long time yet. -- Charles Tomlinson * Times Literary Supplement *
The Music of What Happens, with its deft, precise treatment of the configurative strategies of Ashbery, Heaney, Ginsberg, Sexton, and others reminds us why, ultimately, we might put the newspaper down and read a poem instead. -- Robert Lindsey * Bloomsbury Review *
Any criticism that develops so complex a sense of what really good poetry does, and develops it so lovingly, is to be cherished. -- Alan Williamson * Boston Globe *
Vendler is essential, whether one delights or despairs in her views. More, The Music of What Happens is the essential Vendler. -- G. E. Murray * Chicago Tribune *
Polite, decisive, and insightful, Vendler is our most distinguished critic of modern poetry. In this collection she deals with writers as diverse as Donald Davie and A. R. Ammons... It is her own likes and dislikes, tirelessly examined and cross-examined, that give her frequent bursts of critical eloquence the foundation of truth. * Choice *

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