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W. H. Auden
Topic Started: Jan 22 2008, 09:45 AM (1,744 Views)
onefatman
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it's not just about this poet whom i admire deeply, but I am looking for a good biography on Auden. And if there isn't a good one I'd rather read nothing than a bad one. Read way too many bad biographies. Last one was Hamilton's biography of Lowell. Urgh!
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Pointsman
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I have Humphrey Carpenter's Bio of Auden which is considered the best. And it is brilliant. Just under 500 pages.

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oneofmurphysbiscuits
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that's the only one i know of, but not read. I've always loved MacNeice's poetry too, but i've not read either in years
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This is a wonderful, wonderful poet. It took me a while to warm up to him but his collected poems have been a constant companion ever since. dear rowan williams sayeth this:
Quote:
 
If I had to find one word for Auden's poetry, it might be "satisfying" - not remotely in the sense of comfortable, but full of that sense of creative necessity that poetry conveys when it is most itself: this is how it must be said, this is (borrowing Geoffrey Hill's language) a poetry of "atonement" where something is at the same time finished and set free in the fabric of the words.

http://shigekuni.wordpress.com/2008/03/12/on-auden/

I will read the Carpenter biography in a few days, ordered it last night.
Anything else?

I've read one book on Auden and Merrill which was a horrible mess. Reminds me of a thread on LGBT literature elsewhere which I have been trying hard not to comment in. There's a frustrating way that critics like to let some writers' sexual preference color their reading of the books. Which reminds me of the annoying life/literature equivocation in the first chapter of Knowlson's Beckett biography. How did I end up here again? Ah, Auden. Wonderful poet.
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ahem. noticed there exists an older thread
http://z11.invisionfree.com/thefictionalwo...?showtopic=1667
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Pointsman
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That Collected Poems, for all the magnificence inside it, is one of the most bizarrely mangled poetry collections of one the world's greatest poets. Far too much room given over to the verse dramas and later poems. Badly needs revised.
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Pointsman
Oct 26 2008, 11:15 AM
That Collected Poems, for all the magnificence inside it, is one of the most bizarrely mangled poetry collections of one the world's greatest poets. Far too much room given over to the verse dramas and later poems. Badly needs revised.

how "too much room". it's collected, innit? so the room accorded should be proportional to the amount of texts published. no?
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Tatzelwurm
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Pointsman, what WASN'T included, but should have been?
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Pointsman
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I should have made myself clearer there. It's the early poetry of which there's far too little of and which is the most important in some respects.

And you're right of course, collected does mean proportional to the amount of texts published. but consider how much Auden revised his own work right up until the end of his life. Did you notice that neither 'Spain' or 'September 1st, 1939' are not in that collection? It's just little lopsided, that's all I'm saying.
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Pointsman
Oct 26 2008, 01:12 PM

And you're right of course, collected does mean proportional to the amount of texts published. but consider how much Auden revised his own work right up until the end of his life. Did you notice that neither 'Spain' or 'September 1st, 1939' and not in that collection?

Oh but you're right
ooooh
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johnnywalkitoff
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a good book tangentially related to wh auden and a good book on its own right: memoirs of a bastard angel by harold norse. a great book. he's a wonderful poet too. Williams thought he was the greatest poet of his age (c. the beats). don't have his collected pomes on hand but i think they're called in the hub of the fiery force. excellent, underrated poet.
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kline19
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September 1, 1939. damn! read it for the first time.
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nnyhav
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Been thru the Selected, now The English Auden 27-39 resides on my bookshelf of good intentions. (both Mendelson, Ed)

Yikes! Having worked at one of the investment banks, on Fifty-Second Street, I realize how little it would take to update to September 15, 2008 ...
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oneofmurphysbiscuits
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"some writers" yes, some readers too, but not all of it need be simplistic
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kline19
Oct 28 2008, 01:17 AM
September 1, 1939. damn! read it for the first time.

just so everyone can share your justified awe:

Quote:
 
SEPTEMBER 1, 1939
by W.H. Auden


I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
'I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,'
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the dead,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.
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johnnywalkitoff
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Good god. It's strange that poetry, great poetry, always seems to take the top of my head off-and that: a poem i've read, memorized some of, is still so goddamn new and beautiful. Sort of forgot about him. Or read with half-alert heart.
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Is there a good edition of the unrevised early poetry?
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oneofmurphysbiscuits
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wrong title
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oneofmurphysbiscuits
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http://audensociety.org/
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nnyhav
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Canox
Nov 6 2008, 01:45 PM
Is there a good edition of the unrevised early poetry?

Yes.

Full title The English Auden: Poems, Essays and Dramatic Writings 1927-1939
Faber & Faber '77 corrected '78 paperback '86
but . . . out-of-print?

from backcover: "This volume restores Auden to us complete and unrevised . . . The reader recaptures the excitement of a young poet who struck readers first by the austere saga-like strangeness of his poetry, and then with his intoxication with disruptive, uninhibited ideas. The English Auden is the resurrection of the body of the poetry as it existed in England between 1927 and 1939." Stephen Spender, Sunday Telegraph
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