ADVANTAGES

This is from Helen Vendler's book on Seamus Heaney. She's also the author of an essay on the volume 'The Haw Lantern,' printed in 'The Art of Seamus Heaney' edited by Tony Curtis. It includes this: 'The social, historical, and religious perceptions of The Haw Lantern, if they should become general in Ireland, would ... create a new psychic reality there.' This is grossly inflated. This comes after she has mentioned George Herbert, Milton and Mandelstam. 'The Haw Lantern' has now been classified as an emblem poem rather than an allegory. The poet writing in both genres, according to Helen Vendler, 'positions himself at a distance from daily events.' Since poetry isn't a branch of journalism, this distance from daily events isn't so very surprising. 'Such analytic, generalized poetry hopes to gain in intelligence what it loses in immediacy of reference.' This is already hopeless, even before the reference which comes next: 'The greatest example of such an aesthetic choice is Milton's decision to write the epic of Puritan war, regicide, reform, and defeat by retelling Genesis.' The fortunes of Ireland and the wider world won't be determined by this poetry. For Helen Vendler, the poem 'The Haw Lantern,' like other poems in the volume 'The Haw Lantern,' 'reflects a new despair of country and self.' This amounts to misuse of words, above all the word 'despair.' If there's despair here, it's the least corrosive, least painful, least harrowing kind of despair that can be imagined. Any linkages of great weight - George Herbert, Milton, Mandelstam, or Leopardi, Trakl and Kierkegaard - wouldn't be in the least appropriate for the light verse, ponderous verse, pretentious verse, attractive verse and very unattractive verse which makes up this collection.

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