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Selected Poems [Hardcover]

W. H. Auden , Professor Edward Mendelson
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

16 July 1979
For many years there existed a general feeling that the selection made by Auden himself in 1968 was far from satisfactory. It was too short to provide a full introduction to such a large body of work; perhaps it was too weighted in favour of the later poetry; at the time it was made some famous poems, or portions of poems were still under an embargo imposed by Auden himself which remained in force until his death. This edition contains an introduction which is an examination of the nature of Auden's genius and of his position and stature in 20th-century literature.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 314 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; New edition edition (16 July 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571113877
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571113873
  • Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 13.4 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,073,662 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

W. H. Auden was born in York in 1907, and W. H. Auden was born in York in 1907, and brought up in Birmingham. His first book, Poems, was published by T. S. Eliot at Faber in 1930. He went to Spain during the civil war, to Iceland (with Louis MacNeice) and later travelled to China. In 1939 he and Christopher Isherwood left for America, where Auden spent the next fifteen years lecturing, reviewing, writing poetry and opera librettos, and editing anthologies. He became an American citizen in 1946, and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1948. In 1956 he was elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford, and a year later went to live in Kirchstetten in Austria, after spending several summers on Ischia. He died in Vienna in 1973. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Appreciation and understanding 20 Mar 2007
By Mykool
When this selection was first published in 1979, just 6 years after Auden's death, people still divided his career into the "English Auden" (up to 1939) and the "American Auden" (post 1939). Controversy still raged over Auden's own selection of his poems which eliminated and disowned many of the essential early works - something this selection sought to redress. Those controversies are long dead, I think, but they served a purpose in giving us this excellent selection with an illuminating introduction from Edward Mendelson, whose first sentence- "Auden was the first poet writing in English who felt at home in the twentieth century", already provides a great insight. Exactly 100 poems have been chosen which fills over 300 pages, very generous for a "selected" poems. The poems Auden rejected such as "Spain" and "September 1, 1939" are restored and are absolutely central to understanding his oeuvre. Longer sequences such as "In Time of War", "The Quest" and "The Sea and the Mirror" are presented in their entirety along with the familiar major lyrics such as "Lay your sleeping head, my love", "As I walked out one evening", "Musee des beaux arts" and perhaps his greatest single poem "In praise of Limestone" right up to his final published poem in 1973. You can tell this selection was made before "Four weddings and a funeral" as there is no "Funeral Blues" or "Tell me the truth about love"! Which in itself might indicate the richness in Auden's work. So, this collection is maybe not for the casual reader who only wants the 5 or 6 really famous poems, but for the person who wants to deepen their knowledge and understanding of the full range of Auden's work. He is not always easy to understand, but sometimes great poetry isn't easy - nevertheless, it can still be enjoyed. As a teacher of mine once put it "Appreciation precedes understanding" and I have found this to be true often and especially so with Auden.
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38 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is an inspiring read 8 Oct 2001
I came to this book after a friend sent me a poem of his in an email.
This is simply an excelent collection of poetry, sometimes crystal clear and at other times it yields nothing so easy to distinguish as 'meaning'.
Auden can evoke a day's thought from a single sentence and give a new perspective to an old event (take the lunar landing for example).
His scope and range are truly impressive covering ancient times (Orpheus) right up to the (relative) modern day (he died in the late 70's I think).
This book is highly recommended.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Auden = Legend 10 Mar 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Auden is an amazing poet. He deals with issues that are relevant today, and though his poems are for the most part abstract, the deeper meanings and themes throughout the body of his work are interesting, thought-provoking and, most importantly, expertly written. Auden's language is brilliant.

Gotta b my favourite poet. I'm only 18, doin my A levels, but cmon, Auden for the win.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine selection of W.H. Auden 7 April 2000
By William - Published on
W. H. Auden has always been one of my favourite modern poets, and the 'Selected Poems' one of my favourite volumes of his work. While he gained popular vogue for a time following Ben Elton's film 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' (still one of the funniest films ever made), the full extent of Auden's ability is attested to in this volume, which includes some of his best loved and well recognised poems (and does not include 'Funeral Blues', the poem from 'Four Weddings' - if you're looking for that poem, try the short volume 'Tell Me the Truth About Love'). This selection by Edward Mendelson includes the original versions of poems edited by Auden later in his life, also giving a unique perspective on the early development of Auden's work.
Poetry is, of course, a very personal taste, and one man's favourite poem is another's jumble of ill-chosen words. That being said, it is difficult, to my mind, to find poems written in this century which surpass 'Oxford', 'Musée des Beaux Arts', 'In Memory of W. B. Yeats', 'Et in Arcadia Ego'...the list is practically as long as the table of contents. No matter the subject (even to something as curious as 'In Praise of Limestone'), Auden has words for us, words which are as powerful, as moving now as they were the day they were put to paper.
In short, if you are at all tempted by poetry, this volume is certainly worth your time.
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Book 25 May 2000
By R. Albin - Published on
Auden is one of the great poets of the past century and one of the greatest ever in English. This is a particularly good collection of his work. The editor, Edward Mendelson, is a leading Auden scholar and Auden's literary executor. This volume contains all of Auden's major poetry including the great short lyrics, the major longer works, and my favorite, the great China sonnet sequence. In his later years, Auden altered the text of some famous earlier poems to change wordings he felt were false. In this edition, Mendelson uses the earlier versions of these subsequently altered verses. Many prefer the early versions though I find comparisons with the amended versions published in the equally wonderful Collected Poems, also edited by Mendelson, to be very interesting. I am not sure that the amended versions are worse, just different. It contains also a particularly insightful preface by Mendelson that does a very nice job of putting Auden into the context of 20th century English poetry. This is a wonderful book for those who love Auden's work. It can be read over and over again. It is also an excellent introduction for those encountering Auden for the first time.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A marvelous introduction 26 Aug 2003
By J. Ott - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I can do little more than echo the other reviewers here. This is all a 'selected poems' shoud be: introductory and selective. Yes, "Funeral Blues" is missing. But no one can complain about what is here, which includes "In Time of War", the great sonnet sequence; "The Quest", another long sequence; and the entirety of THE SEA AND THE MIRROR, which is based on Shakespeare's THE TEMPEST. If you are, however, only interested in his love poems, I'd have to steer you toward TELL ME THE TRUTH ABOUT LOVE, a nice little chapbook containing only those.
My own personal experience with this book may be relevant. It has served to introduce me to one of the finest poets of the last century and sparked a desire to read THE COLLECTED POEMS, also edited by Mendelson, to see how Auden re-wrote thirty of the brilliant poems here included. I'm continuing on my voyage; hope you are starting on yours.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Quintessential Collection 9 Nov 2003
By Jacqueline Weinstein - Published on
For many of us,the poems that we read in childhood and adolescence are those that stick with us the most. When I was fifteen, I bought this volume and promptly fell in love with Auden's poetry. His work showed a restlessness with the social and political state of his world, and I found that I could connect with it both intellectually and emotionally. To this day, I can revisit this book's pages feeling like I am visiting a childhood friend. Auden expressed some feelings I shared with him, and I was moved by his ability to express them better than I ever could: with frankness, wit, and grace. A must for any literary enthusiast (or any curious fifteen-year-old, for that matter).
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Poetry to "disenchant and disintoxicate" 7 July 2006
By Cathy - Published on
W.H. Auden is truly, as noted by editor Edward Mendelson, a twentieth century poet. Auden had a firm grasp on the essence of contemporary politics and culture and possessed a knack for bringing a reader into his world. This selection spans the entire body of Auden's work, and contains several early poems which are hard to find, as Auden refused to have them republished in later collections of his work. It is a good introduction to Auden, but I recommend reading it along with Collected Shorter Poems 1927-1957, as that contains the revisions that Auden made to his poems over time, in his fervor for complete honesty in his work.

While Mendelson's selection is well put together and a good representation of Auden's early craft, the revised poems are generally much stronger (though often bleaker in tone). Many changes, such as the famous revision of September 1, 1939 to read "we must love one another and die" rather than "we must love one or die" were made to reflect the author's shifting attitudes. However, other poems improve significantly with Auden's editing, and if this book is the only Auden you read, you'll miss out on the full depth of his power as a poet.
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