My Poet

27 November 2013

T. —

It’s ironic, really, to be speaking about clocks and melting time. My time melted away today, and I feel like it has been doing that for most of November, actually. I’m not sure why.

When I think of time, and clocks, and the limits of clocks, and the outer edges of time, and the de-structuralization of structure, I think of Auden. I know it’s a sad song for the night before a very happy holiday, but I love the poem so much.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone
W. H. Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.


I was just reading a book recently where the main character loved Auden. Ah, I remember. Isabel Dalhousie from Alexander McCall Smith’s series called The Sunday Philosophy Club. She refers to Auden as her poet. 

From that early encounter with his work, I developed an increasingly strong interest in his writing. I began to travel with a collection of his poems in my suitcase; lines of his verse came back to me at odd moments; I started, I suppose, to look at the world through what might be described as an Audenesque set of spectacles. I taught our daughter, then aged four, to recite his ballad “As I Walked Out One Evening”. She enjoyed it. We are all pushy parents in one way or another, and may as well admit it.

Why W. H. Auden Still Matters by Alexander McCall Smith

I wonder who my poet is. Part of me wants to say Stephen Dunn. But now that we’re friends, I’m not sure. I mean, I love his work, but I wouldn’t say that I’m possessive of it anymore. It also strikes me that one should claim a poet who is already dead, so that you can take up his cause and make him live again. Or her. Hmmm… I’ll have to think on that.



One thought on “My Poet

  1. I love Auden. This is one of my favourite poems by him.

    I don’t know if I can ever decide on just one poet. But I agree about Stephen Dunn–after getting to know you, I’ve felt that way, too.


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