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20190901

W.H. Auden's September 1, 1939 was written on the eve of destruction soon after the poet's arrival in New York & the beginning of his life long love affair with a young American poet. It was a poem whose flaws and failings haunted Auden yet it has enjoyed a remarkable afterlife, plundered for political ads and speeches & widely circulated after 9/11 as a salve for America's wounds.

Auden's journal for that year has only recently surfaced & reveals his febrile and fertile thought processes weaving intimate private anxieties with the public crisis of a world now about to plunge into war. The crisis of democracy & the rise of fascism, the demotic voice of radio & the secret whisper of love are twined through the poem's 99 subtle lines. But this complex poem, despite Auden's wishes, has often been reduced to a series of epigrammatic 'greatest hits' such as 'We must love one another or die', 'ironic points of light' & 'those to whom evil is done do evil in return'. Maria Margaronis explores all that flows into & out of a poem that speaks perpetually to our 'age of anxiety'.

The creation and unexpected afterlife of WH Auden's poem September 1, 1939.

20190901

W.H. Auden's September 1, 1939 was written on the eve of destruction soon after the poet's arrival in New York & the beginning of his life long love affair with a young American poet. It was a poem whose flaws and failings haunted Auden yet it has enjoyed a remarkable afterlife, plundered for political ads and speeches & widely circulated after 9/11 as a salve for America's wounds.

Auden's journal for that year has only recently surfaced & reveals his febrile and fertile thought processes weaving intimate private anxieties with the public crisis of a world now about to plunge into war. The crisis of democracy & the rise of fascism, the demotic voice of radio & the secret whisper of love are twined through the poem's 99 subtle lines. But this complex poem, despite Auden's wishes, has often been reduced to a series of epigrammatic 'greatest hits' such as 'We must love one another or die', 'ironic points of light' & 'those to whom evil is done do evil in return'. Maria Margaronis explores all that flows into & out of a poem that speaks perpetually to our 'age of anxiety'.

The creation and unexpected afterlife of WH Auden's poem September 1, 1939.