Helen Vendler is the Arthur Kingsley Porter University Professor in the Department of English at Harvard. Her latest book is The Ocean, the Bird, and the Scholar, a collection of her most recent essays. (April 2017)


‘I Heard Voices in My Head’

William Wordsworth; portrait by Benjamin Haydon, 1842

The Prelude: 1805

by William Wordsworth, edited and with an introduction by James Engell and Michael D. Raymond
Wordsworth’s The Prelude—a meditative poem on the growth of the poet’s mind—is a unique document of modern consciousness in its constant mobility—of times, thoughts, feelings, prospect, and retrospect. The mode of other treatments of consciousness—expository essays on philosophy, political theory, psychology, and morals—is essentially one of formulated assertion (even if …

Wallace Stevens: The Real and the Made-Up

Wallace Stevens with his daughter Holly in front of their apartment in Hartford, Connecticut, 1929

The Whole Harmonium: The Life of Wallace Stevens

by Paul Mariani
The poetic imagination projects a world, says the poet Wallace Stevens (1879–1955) in a letter from 1940, but it is difficult to make that world believable to everyone: It is impossible to project a world that will not appear to some one to be a deformation. This is especially true …

Poet of the Violent and the Chaste

The Collected Poems of John Crowe Ransom

edited by Ben Mazer
There are many writers—novelists, critics, journalists—who, after composing and even publishing poetry, come to a halt. Many find notable success in prose: Faulkner, Hemingway, Lawrence of Arabia. There is, however, a sadder version of the story, that of a writer who finds himself unable to continue as a lyric poet: …

The Poet Remakes the Poem

Susan Gilbert Dickinson on the day of her wedding to Emily Dickinson’s brother, Austin, July 1, 1856

How do poets edit their own work, when they are searching (as Keats wrote) “around the poles” to make the poem a work of art?1 W.B. Yeats, replying to friends who deplored his late revisions of early verse, said the definitive word on what is entailed in poetic second …

Berryman: Tragedy & Comedy Together

John Berryman and Adrienne Rich (seated), with Stanley Kunitz, Richard Eberhart, and Robert Lowell (standing), at a memorial tribute to Randall Jarrell at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, February 1966

The Heart Is Strange: New Selected Poems

by John Berryman, edited and with an introduction by Daniel Swift

The Dream Songs

by John Berryman, with an introduction by Michael Hofmann
On October 25, 1914, just over one hundred years ago, the remarkable poet John Berryman was born in McAlester, Oklahoma. The anniversary invites a second look at Berryman’s life, art, and reputation.