Posts Tagged ‘W. H. Auden’
February 5, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
- “Auden said something disparaging about Samuel Beckett getting the Nobel Prize for Literature. Nikos said: ‘Who else is there?’ Auden shook his head so all the sagging wrinkles shook and said: ‘There’s me.’” The gossipy diaries of David Plante.
- Speaking of Beckett, “Fail better,” a quotation from his Worstward Ho, continues to be wildly misappropriated by Silicon Valley execs who refuse to pay obeisance to its pessimism.
- In the UK, a children’s book about a foulmouthed boy with Tourette’s syndrome prompts a debate: Should salty books for young readers come with a warning?
- Now in print: “Footlights,” a novella by Charlie Chaplin that inspired the screenplay for Limelight. “‘Footlights’ is 70 pages long and contains around 34,000 words,” notes the BBC. Gosh, tell me more!
- The New York Times’ facile editorial page is under fire from its own staff: “Largely irrelevant.” “A waste of money.” “An embarrassment.”
- Facebook, Gmail, and Twitter are classically conditioning us. Notifications are a “never-ending arms race of cheap con games to compete for user attention.”
January 22, 2014 | by Cynthia Ozick
“75 at 75,” a special project from the 92nd Street Y in celebration of the Unterberg Poetry Center’s seventy-fifth anniversary, invites contemporary authors to listen to a recording from the Poetry Center’s archive and write a personal response. Here, Cynthia Ozick reflects on W. H. Auden, whose readings she remembers attending as a Poetry Center subscriber in the fifties.
There must be sorrow if there can be love. —From “Canzone”
Ah, the fabled sixties and seventies! Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs! The glorious advent of Howling! Of Getting Stoned! The proliferation of Ginsbergian Exclamation Points! To secure the status of their literary subversion, these revolutionary decades were obliged, like the cadres of every insurrection, to denigrate and despise, and sometimes to blow up, their immediate predecessor, the fifties—the middling middle, the very navel, of the twentieth century. The fifties, after all, were the Eisenhower years, stiff and small like Mamie’s bangs (and just as dated), dully mediocre, constrained, consumerist, car-finned, conformist, forgettable, and stale as modernism itself. Randall Jarrell, one of its leading poets and critics, named this midcentury epoch “The Age of Criticism”—and what, however he intended it, could suggest prosiness more? And what is prosiness if not the negation of the lively, the living, the lasting, the daring, the true and the new? The reality was sublimely opposite. It was, in fact, the Age of Poetry, a pinnacle and an exaltation; there has not been another since. Its poets were more than luminaries—they were colossi, their very names were talismans, and they rose before us under a halo of brilliant lights like figures in a shrine. It was a kind of shrine: the grand oaken hall, the distant stage and its hallowed lectern, the enchanted voices with their variegated intonations, the rapt listeners scarcely breathing, the storied walls themselves in trance—this was the Poetry Center of the 92nd Street Y in the heart of the twentieth century. Read More »
May 27, 2013 | by Christina Thompson
Three years before my mother’s final illness she had a major stroke. It was not a typical stroke—more cascade than cataclysm—but when it was over it had laid her low as effectively as a bolt of lightning.
At first, we didn’t know if she would live or die. She couldn’t move any part of her body, couldn’t speak, couldn’t swallow. This last was particularly distressing—swallowing is such a primitive function, but the stroke, it seemed, had struck a primitive part of her brain.
During those first few nights I sat by my mother’s bed in the dim double ward, the curtains drawn between us and the other occupant, who coughed feebly and rustled like an animal in the walls of a house. My mother breathed quietly, the lights on her monitors blinked and glowed. Occasionally an alarm would go off somewhere down the hall with the high, persistent beeping that hospital staff, remarkably, never seem to notice.
I sat there for I don’t know how many hours, drifting in and out of exhaustion and anxiety, and at some point a fragment of poetry came into my mind. “Lay your sleeping head, my love, / Human on my faithless arm . . . ”
Over and over it played in an endless loop, while I racked my brains to identify it. It was definitely something I knew, but I couldn’t even think what century it belonged to. For some reason it became incredibly important to me to figure out what it was. Read More »
May 14, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
February 22, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
November 19, 2012 | by Casey N. Cep
“I used to want to live / to avoid your elegy,” Robert Lowell confessed in “For John Berryman.”
The death of one poet is an extraordinary occasion for another poet. It is like the day a stonemason dies and another has to carve his headstone. Like a rough ashlar, the elegy sits waiting to be shaped into a memorial for the one who is gone. The death of a poet so great as Jack Gilbert last week pains, but also promises remembrances fitting the one who died.
Gilbert devoted most of his elegies to his wife, Michiko Nogami, but poets have forever elegized one another. We can trace the canon through the poems that poets have written to mourn their own: Henri Cole grieving Elizabeth Bishop; Bishop remembering Robert Lowell; Lowell lamenting the death of John Berryman; Berryman longing for Roethke, Jarrell, Hughes, Plath, Schwartz, and William Carlos Williams; W.H. Auden elegizing Yeats; Shelley bemoaning the loss of Keats; all the way back to Ovid mourning Orpheus.