Auden Nods Among Noise Makers

Poems contain many voices because words convey the circumstances of their many uses through time; words are rooted in the collective memory of those who use them but their references are other to our memories.

So in a given poem which voice is that of the poet?


The point being ‘words’ are spoken in circumstances and TO circumstances that provide them their urgency, their timeliness. We must allow Auden his ironies. This very poem has successfully transcended whatever urgency that made him write it. In the end he wanted to write a poem and had to use language—-inherently equivocal—-to do so.

The ‘we’ that emerges from the process of the poem —- the lonely betters of those noise-makers —- are not poets as such but Auden’s own shapen sense of the human being. For all his irony he’s an honest maker and the end of the poem shows strain rather than aesthetic grace. The self-indulgence of ‘we too’ glares back at us. Vegetables and birds indeed. The cat’s out of the bag.

Author: Tom D'Evelyn

Tom D'Evelyn is a private editor and writing tutor in Cranston RI and, thanks to the web, across the US and in the UK. He can be reached at D'Evelyn has a PhD in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley. Before retiring he held positions at The Christian Science Monitor, Harvard University Press, Boston University and Brown University. He ran a literary agency for ten years, publishing books by Leonard Nathan and Arthur Quinn, among others. Before moving to Portland OR he was managing editor at Single Island Press, Portsmouth NH. He blogs at and other sites.

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