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Unknown Auden

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  • mandreox
    A student film maker from N.Y.U. interviewed me about W.H. Auden. Auden was no unknown citizen. I confirmed the usual impressions. I had observed him on a
    Message 1 of 2 , Feb 28, 2008
      A student film maker from N.Y.U. interviewed me about W.H. Auden.
      Auden was no unknown citizen. I confirmed the usual impressions.
      I had observed him on a panel at Columbia's School of the Arts. Auden
      was slightly overweight and extraordinarily wrinkled. He dressed
      casually -- he even wore slippers. After an hour, he glanced at his
      watch, said he had to go, and shuffled on out. He was 63-years-old.

      Then I saw him read to a huge sold-out audience at the 92nd Street Y.
      He recited his own poems by heart. Only once did he falter--did he
      glance quickly at a manuscript on the podium, or merely flip his hand
      a few beats to jog his memory? He seemed seamlessly to resume.

      Auden was on TV! He was no actor but he had his lines down. Dick
      Cavett asked him questions. Auden tended to quote himself with his
      answers. He didn't look at Cavett or at the camera.

      So finally the time came to phone him and arrange our hour of
      interview. "I'll be there promptly at 4:00pm," I told him, "with my
      tape recorder."

      "No tape recorder," he said. He then disparaged cameras, and clicked off.

      Auden's apartment was being broken up. Books and opera records were in
      piles or in boxes. Shelves were half-empty. He was leaving St Mark's
      Place for Oxford, England.

      At the end of his life, Auden's poetry seemed to collapse into a
      faggy folksiness, a campy pointlessness. The poems were certainly
      charming but--why bother? They were in any case the opposite of The
      Orators, his willfully obscure and scarcely readable second book.
      Allen Ginsberg wrote a homage to this late vein of camp verse in
      Indian Journals and it amused me mightily. I asked Auden if he liked
      Ginsberg's homage. Auden seemed excited; he'd never seen it, and
      asked me to send it to him.

      Months later I told Ginsberg how much I liked that homage. Ginsberg
      wondered if Auden had seen it.

      "Auden's seen it," I said. "I sent it to him."

      Ginsberg looked stricken. "My poem was mean," he said.
    • Mick Stephens
      This is wonderful stuff! Thank you. I met him (Auden) only once, standing with some young friends on St. Marks Place. I was in my late teens. We all thought of
      Message 2 of 2 , Feb 29, 2008
        This is wonderful stuff! Thank you. I met him (Auden) only once, standing with some young friends on St. Marks Place. I was in my late teens. We all thought of ourselves as poets, yet here was the real deal. My favorite Auden story is the one in which he took LSD, but nothing happened. He went out, and saw a vision waving to him down the block. He pursued the vision. It turned out to be the postman, bringing him a package.

        Mick

        M. G. Stephens

        mandreox <no_reply@yahoogroups.com> wrote:
        A student film maker from N.Y.U. interviewed me about W.H. Auden.
        Auden was no unknown citizen. I confirmed the usual impressions.
        I had observed him on a panel at Columbia's School of the Arts. Auden
        was slightly overweight and extraordinarily wrinkled. He dressed
        casually -- he even wore slippers. After an hour, he glanced at his
        watch, said he had to go, and shuffled on out. He was 63-years-old.

        Then I saw him read to a huge sold-out audience at the 92nd Street Y.
        He recited his own poems by heart. Only once did he falter--did he
        glance quickly at a manuscript on the podium, or merely flip his hand
        a few beats to jog his memory? He seemed seamlessly to resume.

        Auden was on TV! He was no actor but he had his lines down. Dick
        Cavett asked him questions. Auden tended to quote himself with his
        answers. He didn't look at Cavett or at the camera.

        So finally the time came to phone him and arrange our hour of
        interview. "I'll be there promptly at 4:00pm," I told him, "with my
        tape recorder."

        "No tape recorder," he said. He then disparaged cameras, and clicked off.

        Auden's apartment was being broken up. Books and opera records were in
        piles or in boxes. Shelves were half-empty. He was leaving St Mark's
        Place for Oxford, England.

        At the end of his life, Auden's poetry seemed to collapse into a
        faggy folksiness, a campy pointlessness. The poems were certainly
        charming but--why bother? They were in any case the opposite of The
        Orators, his willfully obscure and scarcely readable second book.
        Allen Ginsberg wrote a homage to this late vein of camp verse in
        Indian Journals and it amused me mightily. I asked Auden if he liked
        Ginsberg's homage. Auden seemed excited; he'd never seen it, and
        asked me to send it to him.

        Months later I told Ginsberg how much I liked that homage. Ginsberg
        wondered if Auden had seen it.

        "Auden's seen it," I said. "I sent it to him."

        Ginsberg looked stricken. "My poem was mean," he said.






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