“I will love you forever” swears the poet. I find this easy to swear to. “I will love you at 4:15 pm next Tuesday” – Is that still as easy? (Auden)
This week on the Influence: W. H. Auden.
Auden’s one of those guys I come back to in my thoughts, and whose words I butcher in conversation.
Like there’s the essay where he talks about how if you have a poet who writes because he believes strongly that he has something to say, let that poet become a politician, a journalist, or anything else because he doesn’t have a chance of becoming a poet. But if you have a poet who is genuinely interested in putting one word next to another and seeing how they might affect each other, bleed into one another, then maybe – just maybe – that person might turn out to be a poet.
His writing – poems and essays – have been with me long enough to have become part of the layers of sedimentary rock that make up the floor holding up my writing self. (As is evident, I am not so with the smarts as him!)
Usually the “some words” posts are made up of longer quotes, but I feel I have quoted, paraphrased, or said things shaped by the man enough throughout the Influence’s existence that I can do right by him best by simply admitting it.
His gift for aphorism is almost as great as Oscar Wilde’s. But his distinction is how he will say a thing both sharp and true (Wilde seems to always be going for the kill). Case in point:
In times of joy, all of us wished we possessed a tail we could wag.
He also has a sensibility about reading that makes him kindred with that other great reader, Jorge Luis Borges:
There are good books which are only for adults.
There are no good books which are only for children.
AND I keep finding more aptly said things – apt because with all the big moves going on in my life at the moment, I need to hear things like the following said:
You owe it to all of us to get on with what you’re good at.
Amen. That might be my mantra for the next few years.
The following poem exhibits much of the same bite and vulnerable spirit that rings through in the quotes above. Enjoy.
The More Loving One – W. H. Auden
Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.
How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.
Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.
Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.
p.s. PhD update: For those of you keeping up, I am happy to announce that me and mine are Cincinnati bound!