Helen Vendler’s introductory piece reflects her influential and critical take on contemporary poetry. In itself, the introduction reflects some level of complexity and subtlety. It encompasses elements that pertain to the challenges that poets like Seamus Heaney tend to face at middle age, and the values that were seen in their older writing style start to fail.
Meaningful elements include metaphorical hints such as stating that Heaney’s work is an ‘oeuvre’ of social engagement (Vender). Moreover, Vendler depicts the political and geographical aspects that allow Heaney to become a leading figure among the audiences. Her acknowledgement of the mass effects that Heaney has in the audiences’ mind tends to create a leading impact on the reader; moreover, one may feel that the introduction, in itself, is a poetry class. In the first paragraph itself, Vendler describes uses textual evidence that is the closest aspects that poetry criticists can encapsulate when qualifying as master scientific and critical writers.
The following text will also assess the organizational and stylistic elements that pertain to Vendler’s introduction. The opening statement traces the date that is to be targeted (1966-1996), and does not focus on leading a chronological order as far as the timeline of events in Heaney’s career is concerned. Understandably, the tone is friendly, and seems rather casual at the start. She also references that ‘a quarter century of spirit waste and life waste,’ and commences the text by focusing on how Heaney was not truly indebted while winning the noble prize. Such tick offs allow the reader to understand the general theme and tone that Vender will most likely use in the entire book. Moreover, Vendler moves forward and discusses aspects that relate to the catholic civil rights marches that took place in the 1960s and represents Heaney’s dislike of the situation then. To note, there are political overlays and opinions that have been voiced without much hesitancy of opposition. Also, Vendler refers to the Heaney’s transition to a poet as a situational occurrence, when she refers ‘these conditions forced Heaney to become a poet in private and public life,’ at the end of the opening context. Overall, the organization sets out in a moderately organized manner, however, sets an excellent backdrop to Heaney’s life journey and his ultimate becoming of a poet.
Vendler’s style shifts from being highly intuitive to that of being highly descriptive. For instance, she suggest to the reader that Heaney can be either highly affectionate with regards to family emptions of very concerned for social environments. As Vendler further describes her poet of choice, she states “as each decade of poetry unfolds, that corrects and illuminates previous ones.” The quote reflects her style as an aesthetic criticist, additionally, she is more so known for her detailed explanation of authors and specific poems that are selected. Moreover, information also contains aspects that relate to how lyrical Heaney’s text is, in addition to promoting aspects of the living past and every miracles that ultimately led to him winning the Nobel Prize. Moreover, Vendler assess the commonalty that comes along with Heaney’s work, and justifies such aspects by setting a backdrop to Ireland’s situation at the time. Vendler states that “Heaney has made one imaginative cast after another while attempting to represent the suffering of the north.” The excerpt from her introduction allows one to further relate the situational context within which Heaney essentially resides. By using a conversational yet informative tone, Vendler states that there is both, an intellectual and emotional connection relating to Heaney’s ‘poetic propaganda (Vender).’
Vendler makes use of reiterating her key concepts as well, and provides a level of structure when assessing the thoughts in the average reader’s mind. There are imperative and key concepts that relate to Heaney’s poetry and Vendler also highlights how ‘thematic elements’ in addition to powerful symbolism in Heaney’s work result in a collective level of fame (Vender). She assesses the entire worldview of events, and does not get bogged down by simplistic terms. Her work is highly analytical, yet opinionated due to the nature of her work that requires such translations to occur as text. For instance, she states “poetry needs both syntax and words in order to achieve a memorable experience, in addition to symbols, themes, and internal structures (Vender).” Vendler further depicts the simplicity with which Heaney decorates his poems, and further highlights the internal structure as she progresses. Overall, there is a deep level of criticism rooted in the styles that Heaney can show, and Vendler states her opinion, by suggesting to the reader that with every work that Heaney released, there were originations of newer and more current styles. However, she also highlights with the choice of wordings that the initial literature was the one that sets base to his entire lifetime of work, despite having changed the syntax and other aspects later on.
Vendler’s literary pieces are considered to be highly desirable due to the personal afflictions that she also includes. In this regard, on page 3, Vendler introduces aspects that relate to how she began knowing Heaney and his works in 1975 (Vender 3). She includes various adjectives to describe how “excellent” his work seemed at the start, and how they were among the “best she ever heard and saw.” Simply put, there were “galleys of the North,” and further reiterates in her own words that these were pearls of the 20th century (Vender). The imaginative nature of Vendler’s personal reflection in the introduction is one that has captivated the views of many audiences to date. Moreover, Vendler’s stint on the New York Times is also mentioned and is one that has garnered her immense acknowledgement in the literary industry. Vendler makes sure to remain true to the reader; all in all, she aims to make the reader feel as if her review were all inclusive, and that her views do not seem too single-handed. To support the statement, one may see that Vendler states “my appreciation of Heaney’s writing is not unique at all. Instead, it has been translated around the world (Vender).”
The introduction started off as one that was somewhat factual, however elements of personal reflections and worldviews add more flair and imaginative narratives that steer the work in a positive way. Vendler easily regards Heaney’s ‘haters’ as well, and does not support or rebuff them. Vendler, however, voices her opinions about how poetry is to be supported on the basis of its language, and not entirely on the basis of the arguments that are made in regards to the patriarchal attitudes that may have been represented in some of the works. On page 7, the author starts to represent different views of critics and provides some enlightenment and literary appeal to any reader. For an average reader who is not well versed with such thematic elements, the reading is one that is highly organized. For instance, on page 7, there is also a description of how the poem could have been written in dialogue form, and allows the reader to become well familiar with the meaning of symbolic planes. Vendler supports her introduction by adding referenced material from the 1818 letter by Keats. Such references add some factual support to the text, and provide further insights to the reader regarding lyrical conversations.
Vendler defines how Heaney’s ‘jurisdiction of form’ is distinct in each poem (Vender 6). The organization also relates to direct quotations as Vendler adds that “people were threatened by one poem and the next one (Vender 7).” Moreover, there is also addition of Heaney’s aim as a poet and that relates to his desire for momentary problems from time to time, and the various symbols that are seen as relatable to our predicament. As Vendler sets the right foot forward to describe Heaney’s work, she further describes the changes in symbols, and imaginative, temporal, and spatial history (Vendler 9). Overall, there are many direct literary sources that have been used to augment the credibility of the argument, and also relates to the lyrical poems, expository, and other symbolic structures that are present.
All in all, the reader is given an insight at the very start about the relevant the poet of choice has. There are elements that are highlighted regarding the significance of politics, the north, and other provision, intellectual, and symbolic aspects in poetic pursuits. Vendler aptly depicts Heaney’s work as that of ‘second thoughts,’ and one who is intellectually gifted (Vendler 10). The purpose of using direct experts from his previous works, the focus he had on the very fundamental aspect of thought is viewable. Displays of metaphor are also added when Vendler describes the thought processes and other responsivity and fluidity of mind aspects that come to mind when writing text.
Vendler’s narrative style not only adds an understandable theme for the reader, but is also supported by the various commentaries that are added from the 19th and 20th century. The organization is highly intertwined and connected, and adds to the striking nature and distinctive writing style that Vendler has thoroughly depicted.
Vendler, Helen Hennessy. Seamus Heaney. Harvard University Press, 1998.