Back To CoursePoetry: Help & Review
5 chapters | 120 lessons | 1 flashcard set
Jacob has his master's in English and has taught multiple levels of literature and composition, including junior high, college, and graduate students.
'I sit in one of the dives / On Fifty-second Street / Uncertain and afraid' (1-3), begins W. H. Auden's famous 'September 1, 1939'. The poem, like so much of his work, is both deeply personal and truly symbolic of his times. Because of this, Auden's poetry offers tremendous insight into his own perspective and the general artistic mindset in America and England throughout the first half of the 20th century.
Wysten Hugh Auden was born in England in 1907. He was attracted to literature from a young age. He became particularly fascinated with poetry while attending Oxford University, where he was drawn to the work of T. S. Eliot and other poets who were producing innovative and unique poetry. After making his way into the circle of many of the twentieth century's most influential writers, Auden began writing and publishing his own work. Auden's connections to other writers allowed him to collaborate with other artists and publish in a variety of forms, although his poetry is some of his most influential work. Traveling through Europe and experiencing different cultures shaped his political and philosophical views and provided many of the themes that appear in his poetry.
Auden was a prolific writer from early on, and throughout the 1930s, he wrote not only poems, but also plays, more than 400 non-fiction pieces, and librettos, which are lyrics for longer, more traditional forms of music. In 1939, Auden moved to America, where he would spend the majority of the rest of his life. Around this time, Auden became a devout Christian, and his poetry explored the connection between religious and secular thought. Auden continued to produce a tremendous amount of work in a variety of genres throughout his career, which lasted until his death in 1973.
Much of Auden's work reflects the themes and conventions of the modernist movement in art. Modernism began around the beginning of the 20th century and lasted until around World War II. One of the main issues that modernists were responding to were the feelings of anxiety and suspicion that were being expressed by popular thinkers of the time. Philosophers, psychologists, and scientists, for example, began to challenge common assumptions about reality and the mind's ability to accurately comprehend the world. This, combined with the experience of witnessing the atrocities of World War I, resulted in many artists feeling alienated and eager to construct work that made sense of the changes in the world around them.
One common characteristic of modernist poetry was the attempt to break free from strict poetic forms. Like many modernist writers, Auden produced poetry that abandoned many of the conventions that existed in poetry of the 19th century, such as strict meter and rhyme patterns. This did not, however, prevent Auden from uniquely using traditional aesthetics and poetic forms as well; Auden is known, for example, for using old and obscure poetic forms, some of which dated back hundreds of years. Moreover, his work contains topics that span from ancient religion and science to politics and psychology. This variety and range speaks to Auden's intelligence and his ability to speak to a diverse culture.
Auden's first collection was Poems, which was privately printed in 1928. It was, however, his second collection, also titled Poems and published in 1930, that introduced Auden as an innovative and original voice. Although similar to much modernist art in its themes and concerns, these poems are distinct in their use of a narrator who is both dramatic and emotionally detached. Through using a narrator who is able to reveal the personal anxiety of those living during in the 20th century, while at the same time grappling with the larger ideas that were being explored by artists and intellectuals, Auden provided an important voice for modernism.
Throughout the 1930s, Auden published multiple poems individually and in collections, including The Orators in 1932 and the collection On This Island in 1936. It was his 1940 collection of poems titled Another Time that solidified Auden as a defining voice of his generation.
The collection included 'Musee des Beaux Arts', one of Auden's most cited poems. 'Musee des Beaux Arts' at times uses a distinctly authoritative tone, beginning, for example, 'About suffering they were never wrong, / The old Masters: how well they understood / Its human position...' (1-3).
This tone in 'Musee des Beaux Arts' might be contrasted with a work like 'September 1, 1939', which also appeared in the incredibly influential Another Time. Throughout the poem, the narrator's personal anxiety, frustration, and disappointment are particularly clear, unlike the more formal narration in 'Musee des Beaux Arts'. Although the poem certainly includes wisdom, such as 'Those to whom evil is done Do evil in return', the poem offers insight into the personal experience of the philosophical evolution of the 20th century. In one personal, introspective moment, for example, the narrator explains that 'All I have is a voice / To undue the folded lie' (78-79).
One of Auden's most noted poems was a long poem titled The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue, published in 1947. The poem, which is broken into 6 different parts, follows the conversations of four characters who meet in a bar and spend the evening conversing. The poem received divided and extreme reactions, and despite this divided critical response, it won Auden the Pulitzer prize in 1948.
Auden would continue to write throughout the rest of his life in a variety of genres, which ranged from translations to poems to essays. Many of his later publications, moreover, would include multiple types of literature published side by side.
W. H. Auden was born in 1907 in England and died in 1973. He was a highly prolific writer, producing not only poetry, but plays, librettos, and essays, many of which reflected on current ideas and influenced thinkers who belonged to the modernist era, which lasted from about 1900 to the late 1940s. His poetry is distinct both for its wide ranging themes and for his ability to combine new, innovative forms with old, sometimes ancient, poetic forms. Auden moved to America in 1939, where he would spend most of the rest of his life and continue to write a tremendous amount of work. Some of his most famous poems include 'September 1, 1939', 'Musee des Beaux Arts', and the long poem titled 'The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue'.
|Wysten Hugh Auden||poet born in England in 1907|
|Librettos||are lyrics for longer, more traditional forms of music|
|Modernism||began around the beginning of the 20th century and lasted until around World War II responding to the feelings of anxiety and suspicion that were being expressed by popular thinkers of the time|
|Poems||first collection and privately printed in 1928|
|Poems||second collection published in 1930, that introduced Auden as an innovative and original voice|
|The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue||long poem that won Auden the Pulitzer prize in 1948|
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Back To CoursePoetry: Help & Review
5 chapters | 120 lessons | 1 flashcard set
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