Invisible Listeners: Lyric Intimacy in Herbert, Whitman, and Ashbery

Invisible Listeners: Lyric Intimacy in Herbert, Whitman, and Ashbery

Helen Vendler


When a poet addresses a dwelling person--whether good friend or enemy, lover or sister--we realize the expression of intimacy. yet what impels poets to jump throughout time and house to talk to invisible listeners, looking a great intimacy--George Herbert with God, Walt Whitman with a reader sooner or later, John Ashbery with the Renaissance painter Francesco Parmigianino? In Invisible Listeners, Helen Vendler argues that such poets needs to invent the language that would enact, at the web page, an intimacy they lack in life.

Through brilliantly insightful and gracefully written readings of those 3 nice poets over 3 various centuries, Vendler maps out their relationships with their selected listeners. For his half, Herbert revises the standard "vertical" tackle to God in prefer of a "horizontal" one-addressing God as a chum. Whitman hovers in a occasionally erotic, occasionally quasi-religious language in conceiving the democratic camerado, who will, following Whitman's instance, locate his actual self. And but the camerado can be changed, in Whitman's verse, through the final word invisible listener, dying. Ashbery, looking a fellow artist who believes that artwork continually distorts what it represents, unearths he needs to trip to the distant earlier. In tones either smooth and skeptical he addresses Parmigianino, whose notable self-portrait in a convex replicate furnishes the poet with either a concept and a precedent for his personal innovations.

By growing the kinds and speech of excellent intimacy, those poets set forth the opportunity of a extra entire and passable human interchange--an ethics of relation that's uncoerced, figuring out, and free.

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