Wednesday, February 21, 2007

For Auden

Frank Wilson reminds me that today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of W.H.Auden, the last great English poet. When Auden wrote the entire history of the language flowed through his pen. Nothing more needs to be said. But read this, a seldom noted poem of his but a very great one indeed.

20 comments:

  1. Apparently, his last books of verse, 'Epistle to a Godson' (1972), and the unfinished 'Thank You, Fog' (1974), were roundly condemned for including adverts on the even-numbered pages.

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  2. My God from Amanda Marcotte to W.H.Auden in a day, this chap has range and Sir Jeff into the bargain.
    I'm humbled.

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  3. Ah, Auden. "Your cameraman might enjoy himself because my face looks like a wedding cake left out in the rain."

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  4. wife in the southFebruary 21, 2007 7:42 pm

    Auden. Let the healing fountains start. But this is too important and I'm sorry to use you in this way Bryan. It's Ash Wednesday and Blair has just given up reality for Lent. In withdrawing British troops, and saying that it's now time for the Iraqi's to write their own history, we are witnessing the implosion of postmodernism. This event and the language attached to it have few precedents. Blair believes his bizarre statement to be true because reality is how we, as individuals, construct it. He believes the only blood being spilled is as a result of sectarian conflict, not in any way as a result of his intervention. But reality isn't this. We are bearing witness to monumental derangement. And meantime, in Sarf London, I'm putting chips in the oven and chatting and the children know I'm distracted and what to do?

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  5. Interesting poem. Like Ashbery, when you know certain particulars of the poet's life, even seemingly obscure poems can be explicated. I would say the "imaginative child" was young Ed Mendelsohn, a prof of mine at Columbia who met W.H.A. when he was an undergrad and then -- mirabile dictu -- became his literary executor.

    Ed did have an elfin charm and a boyish handsomeness long after his undergrad days had passed....

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  6. Ah, Ashbery - took his new volume of poems to Egypt as promised but did not get far. Apparently Ancents and poets for novices do not mix.

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  7. Yes, wife in the south, it is Ash Wednesday and I nearly broke my resolution to give up alcoholic drink for Lent, after less than a day, when I heard on R4 this evening that Auden never allowed a day to go by when he didn't stop what he was doing at 6pm to down a large cocktail.

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  8. I'm not sure why or whether I'm even really interested in fleshing out why, but I find it nigh on impossible to read literature on a computer screen, or perhaps even in a magazine for that matter. I don't know is it that my brain is on a short focus kind of synaptic network and whoever is the entity ultimately in charge of cognitive faculties refuses to switch over to the slower network that deals with deep thought. Which I suppose is connected also with with the sensually unpleasing nature of looking at a computer screen compared to reading a book. Left side right side brain stuff I presume.

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  9. I'm not sure why or whether I'm even really interested in fleshing out why, but I find it nigh on impossible to read literature on a computer screen, or perhaps even in a magazine for that matter. I don't know is it that my brain is on a short focus kind of synaptic network and whoever is the entity ultimately in charge of cognitive faculties refuses to switch over to the slower network that deals with deep thought. Which I suppose is connected also with with the sensually unpleasing nature of looking at a computer screen compared to reading a book. Left side right side brain stuff I presume.

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  10. That's a great poem Bryan: thanks.

    We should all be reading the one that begins 'Out on the lawn...'

    A Summer Night?

    Chris H

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  11. Bollocks Appleyard Phillip Larkin knocks the scrotum faced old sodomite into a cocked hat .

    I wonder what his balls look like?

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  12. Bryan:

    "The last great English poet"?

    So when you accused Larkin of "repellent, smelly, inadequate masculinity" that wasn't just an affectation? Was it even a criticism?

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  13. Brit, you stalk my past. I wouldn't go that far now and I appreciate Larkin. But He was major-minor; Auden was major-major.

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  14. I was reading Martin Amis's The War Against Cliche on the loo and stumbled across him slating you for it.

    It surprised me because your immortality stuff is such obvious Larkin territory.

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  15. Bryan, you gave me food for thought, and now I think I largely agree with you about the minor-major distinction.

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  16. Brit, thanks for that and for Moon Landing -

    Irreverence
    is a greater oaf than Superstition.

    I've been trying to say that for years.

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