Helen Vendler

Vendler's Stevens

Notes on the literary politics of Stevens and the language of modernism in 1985

In the newest issue of The Wallace Stevens Journal, a special issue (volume 38, number 2, dated Fall 2014) devoted to Helen Vendler’s career-long interest in Stevens’s poetry, an essay by me appears. Here is a link to a PDF copy of the piece.

A few thoughts on Vendler's Stevens

I recently re-read Helen Vendler’s 1986 review of Milton Bates’s A Mythology of Self (1985) and Albert Gelpi’s collection of essays (The Poetics of Modernism, 1985) which included Marjorie Perloff on Stevens experience (or inexperience) during World War 2, Michael Davidson’s critique of Stevens as not a prosodic innovator, and Alan Golding on Stevens and Zukofsky. (I have insufficient space here to deal with Vendler’s complex reaction to Perloff’s piece – a topic that should surely occasion another foray into the matter.)[1]

Vendler was in general not fond of the essays collected by Gelpi, but she did admire Milton Bates — whose meticulous book was the first full-length biographical/intellectual/historical reading of Stevens.

Vendlerian caffeination

Spotted at Dunkin Donuts last evening in New York: Helen Vendler. She was on her way to speak about Whitman at the 92nd Street Y, when my favorite literary photographer, Lawrence Schwartzwald, noticed her caffeinating herself in prep for a bout with the great bard's energy. I'm in Banff, Alberta, at the moment, and it's nice to know that the camera's eye is keeping track of things back east.

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