Join Professor Helen Vendler in her course lecture on the Yeats poem "Among School Children". View her insightful and passionate analysis along with a condensed reading and student comments on the course.How does a poet repeatedly make art over a lifetime out of an arbitrary assignment of fate? By asking this question of the work of four American poets--two men of the postwar generation, two young women writing today--Helen Vendler suggests a fruitful way of looking at a poet's career and a new way of understanding poetic strategies as both mastery of forms and forms of mastery.Fate hands every poet certain unavoidable "givens." Of the poets Vendler studies, Robert Lowell sprang from a family famous in American and especially New England history; John Berryman found himself an alcoholic manic-depressive; Rita Dove was born black; Jorie Graham grew up trilingual, with three words for every object. In Vendler's readings, we see how these poets return again and again to the problems set out by their givens, and how each invents complex ways, both thematic and formal, of making poetry out of fate.Compelling for its insights into the work of four notable poets, this book by a leading critic of poetry is also invaluable for what it has to tell us about the poetic process--about how art copes with the obdurate givens of life, and about the conflict in art between the whim of fate and the artist's will to choose.
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