Friday, November 18, 2011

English Interlude

For the next 29 days or so I'm going to be doing a little bit of reading. . .and so on and so forth. (See earlier note).

Yesterday I read two poems and an essay by W.H. Auden (that's Wystan Hugh to his parents, and Wysty Baby to his Karaoke buddies -- 1907-1973).

Auden is maybe my favorite poet. I love "September 1, 1939," and "The Shield of Achilles," which seems to me like a post-war companion piece, is actually terrifying as WHA imagines "An unintelligible multitude, / A million eyes, a million boots in line, / Without expression, waiting for a sign.

And then,

"Out of the air a voice without a face
Proved by statistics that some cause was just
In tones as dry and level as the place;
No one was cheered and nothing was discussed;
Column by column in a cloud of dust
They marched away enduring a belief
Whose logic brought them, somewhere else, to grief."

In "In Praise of Limestone," which is extremely dense, he includes this good line: "The blessed will not care what angle they are regarded from, / Having nothing to hide."

The essay "Poetry as Memorable Speech" encapsulates for me why I like this fellow so much. He writes, "The test of a poet is the frequency and diversity of the occasions on which we remember his poetry." I tend to remember him, often.

He continues,

"A great many people dislike the idea of poetry as they dislike over-earnest people, because they imagine it is always worrying about the eternal verities.
Those [. . .] who try to put poetry on a pedestal only succeed in putting it on the shelf. Poetry is no better and no worse than human nature; it is profound and shallow, sophisticated and naive, dull and witty, bawdy and chaste in turn" (2440).


Today, I read some Jean Rhys stories, both of which were better than the novels of her I've read--Wide Sargasso Sea and Voyage in the Dark. The most memorable line--thanks Auden--was from the perspective of an immigrant in London who thought to herself, "I think that sleeping is better than no matter what else."

I, too, am tired. And over-earnest. But a little tea should fix both.

No comments: