Saturday, 19 February 2011

W H Auden Penguin Poets - W H Auden

I am very firmly with Hugh MacDiarmid when it comes to Auden: “a complete wash-out”. I felt this when first introduced to his work in the early ‘70s. I still feel it now. The only time his poetry works for me is when he is not trying to dazzle with his intellect. For example, the first of his ‘Two Songs for Hedli Anderson’ (also known as ‘Funeral Blues’ and by its opening phrase ‘Stop all the clocks’). The simplicity of language and imagery is where the power of this poem lies.

There is no doubting Auden’s skill, his ability to use many poetic forms, or his erudition. However, for me (and I realise this is entirely subjective) all this produces is a smooth, glacial surface on which my interest is frozen and from whence it slides.