Quote of the Week: W.H. Auden on William Butler Yeats

by Anna Blanch on September 8, 2008

Auden is often quoted as saying that if one wants to learn about poetry they should throw their copy of Yeats out the window. Indeed, Auden was pretty hard on Yeats, even though i think it was a love/hate kind of thing – he wanted to dismiss him and to rail against his poetry but deep down even such a strong reaction heralds the impact Yeats had on Auden’s soul.

W.H Auden
So if he didn’t think Yeats’s poetry was worth study, what did Auden (who is the one in the picture) think made poetry worth his time and attention? Auden wrote the following on what makes a poem worthy and valuable:

One demands two things of a poem. Firstly, it must be a well-made verbal object that does honor to the language in which it is written. Secondly, it must say something significant about a reality common to us all, but perceived from a unique perspective. What the poet says has never been said before, but, once he has said it, his readers recognize its validity for themselves.

What do you think makes a good poem?

PS: given my planned reading list for the next couple of months, I strongly suspect you will be hearing much more from W.B Yeats.

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