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Posted August 24, 2008
Vendler is considered the supreme reader of Stevens, especially the line- by- line syntactical substance of his work. In this group of four lectures she illuminates the shorter poetry of Stevens and in doing so elaborates her sense not only of his methods as poet but as poetic visionary. Vendler sees Stevens as a poet in conflict, a poet torn between desire and disappointment, one from whom the predominant note of longing is qualified by the harsh restrained wisdom of denial and failure. She points out how in a chapter on Stevens' 'Tactics of Secrecy', how he will put the major meaning in the middle of the poem, how he will mislead in naming the Poem, how he will substitute 'he' or 'she' when he is really saying 'I', how it is necessary to understand the poetry in the context of his whole canon and in that of his predecessors. Vendler says that 'Desire, its illusions and despairs is Stevens' great subject' Stevens' idealizations in the realms of romantic love, aesthetic creation, religious faith meet always contradiction and qualification in reality. 'The priest desires. The philosopher desires And not to have is the beginning of desire.' But balanced against what is not found and not realized is the intense perceptual and sensual structure of the world found and made by the Poetry. The order and harmony which come out of Stevens' great poems. 'Beauty is momentary in the mind The fitful tracing of a portal But in the flesh it is immortal.'
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