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Posts Tagged ‘W. H. Auden’

In Which Richard Burton Discusses Poetry

October 16, 2012 | by

Friday, October 20, Capo Caccia

On Sunday morning I read poetry at the Union with Wystan Auden. He read a great deal of his own poetry including his poems to Coghill and MacNeice. Both very fine conversation pieces I thought but read in that peculiar sing-song tonelessness colourless way that most poets have. I remember Yeats and Eliot and MacLeish, who read their most evocative poems with such monotony as to stun the brain. Only Dylan could read his own stuff. Auden has a remarkable face and an equally remarkable intelligence but I fancy, though his poetry like all true poetry is all embracingly and astringently universal, his private conceit is monumental. The standing ovation I got with the ‘Boast of Dai’ of D. Jones In Parenthesis left a look on his seamed face, riven with a ghastly smile, that was compact of surprise, malice and envy. Afterwards he said to me ‘How can you, where did you, how did you learn to speak with a Cockney accent?’ In the whole piece of some 300 lines only about 5 are in Cockney. He is not a nice man but then only one poet have I ever met was—Archie Macleish. Dylan was uncomfortable unless he was semi-drunk and ‘on.’ MacNeice was no longer a poet when I got to know him and was permanently drunk. Eliot was clerically cut with a vengeance. The only nice poets I’ve ever met were bad poets and a bad poet is not a poet at all—ergo I’ve never met a nice poet. That may include Macleish. For instance R. S. Thomas is a true minor poet but I’d rather share my journey to the other life with somebody more congenial. I think the last tight smile that he allowed to grimace his features was at the age of six when he realized with delight that death was inevitable. He has consigned his wife to hell for a long time. She will recognize it when she goes there.

From The Richard Burton Diaries, edited by Chris Williams, Yale University Press, 2012. Copyright © 2012 Swansea University.

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Love and Poetry

August 2, 2012 | by

My first date with Luke started at four in the afternoon—and at midnight, we were still going. Sitting on stools at Frank’s Cocktail Lounge (a bar that feels like a holdover from the seventies, right down to the occasional fedora-wearing patron), we were bent over the carefully folded piece of paper Luke had just taken out of his wallet. As he smoothed it out on the bar, I saw the seven poems, in tiny font, that he carried with him at all times—and I braced myself.

This guy wasn’t just so charming and handsome that I’d already trembled once or twice, near him. He was also “haunted by verse.” That was a description an English professor had once applied to me, after I’d run into her while crossing campus one night; drunkenly, I’d begged her to remind me which poet had written, “Let us roll all our strength and all our sweetness up into one ball.” (Andrew Marvell, for the record.)Read More »

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Auden, Furious and Peripatetic

May 18, 2012 | by

  • “In Defense of Brooklyn”—November 1946. Local jerky and artisanal bitters do not, however, figure in the argument.
  • When St. Marks in the Bowery changed its liturgy, Auden did not like it at all. His opener: “Have you gone stark raving mad?”
  • Speaking of Auden, his many New York addresses. Yes, all would now be very expensive.
  • President Obama claims to have never heard of 50 Shades of Grey. This inspires ambivalence.
  • Chicago celebrates the centenary of native son Studs Terkel (who actually died at ninety-six).
  • A camera that takes written pictures.
  • Newbery-winning children's author Jean Craighead George has died at ninety-two. An accomplished journalist and a nature lover, George was perhaps best known for her 1973 novel, Julie of the Wolves.
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    Edward Lear’s “The Dong with a Luminous Nose”

    May 17, 2012 | by

    Edward Lear was born two hundred years ago this month. His reputation, which has outlived many others, rests largely on a book of limericks published when he was thirty-four and a single poem, appearing twenty-one years later, that begins (as you all know, or should):

    The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea
    In a beautiful pea-green boat
    They took some honey, and plenty of money
    Wrapped up in a five-pound note

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    Literary Communes, Literary Parodies: Happy Monday!

    May 7, 2012 | by

  • February House, a musical about the famed Brooklyn Heights brownstone that housed Truman Capote, W. H. Auden, Gypsy Rose Lee (left), Carson McCullers, and Benjamin Britten, is being created based on Sherrill Tippins’s 2005 book of the same name.
  • Were4 rt thou Rmo? The Bard in text form.
  • A guide to philosophy in literature.
  • Paulo Coelho will be selling his e-books for less than a dollar.
  • A Florida library has officially banned Fifty Shades of Grey.
  • Meanwhile, Fifty Shames of Earl Grey will be coming to a bookstore near you.
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    Adrienne Rich

    March 29, 2012 | by

    Photo by Robert Giard.

    Adrienne Rich’s first poem in The Paris Review was “The Snow Queen,” which appeared in the magazine’s second issue (Summer 1953). Her last, “Itinerary,” was published this spring in our two-hundredth. Rich was twenty-three when she wrote “The Snow Queen,” but she had already been discovered. Her first book, A Change of World, was chosen by W. H. Auden for the Yale Younger Poets prize in 1951. Rich’s early work is formally impeccable, its ideas and idioms rooted in the poetry of Yeats and Stevens (“The Snow Queen” can be read as a variation on Stevens’s “The Snow Man”). But Rich quickly moved beyond her early style. She found its virtuosity too prim, too imitative—“exercises in style,” as she once put it. In her early thirties, she was already looking back at her accomplishments and measuring their limitations. “Necessities of Life,” the title poem of her 1966 collection, was first published in The Paris Review as “Thirty-Three” (Winter-Spring, 1964), which was Rich’s age when she wrote it. It is a poem of retrospection and prophecy. It begins,

    Piece by piece I seem
    to re-enter the world: I first began

    a small, fixed dot, still see
    that old myself, a dark blue thumbtack

    pushed into the scene,
    a hard little head protruding

    from the pointillist’s buzz and bloom.
    after a time the dot

    begins to ooze. Certain heats
    melt it.

    “The pointillist’s buzz and bloom” is still Stevensian, but the oozing and heat—here signaling the onset of adolescence—are heralds of Rich's mature poetry. Her great work of the sixties and seventies, the period in which she came out as a lesbian and a radical feminist, are poems of Eros. Not merely eroticism, though there is plenty of that—and it is important—but a poetry of passionate relation and reinvention. It is also a poetry that values plainspokenness over rhetorical expertise. “Now and again to name / over the bare necessities,” as she instructs herself in “Necessities of Life.” Read More »

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