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Auden and us


Filed under: Poetry

Alexander McCall Smith, Edward Mendelson, Ronald Harwood remember W.H. Auden.

THE T.S. ELIOT MEMORIAL MEETING

W.H. Auden once called poetry “a way of happening”, and in his own work the way was a marvellous one, striking a deep, popular chord. His ‘Funeral Blues’ provides the only moment of gravity in Four Weddings and a Funeral; “September 1, 1939” was faxed around New York in the aftermath of 9/11. For Alexander McCall Smith, creator of the bestselling No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, Auden has for many years acted as a kind of invisible moral tutor, informing his responses to fundamental questions about life. In What Auden Can Do for You, published last year, he argues that this great poet can enhance the lives of all of us. Edward Mendelson, who corresponds with the fictional sleuth Isabel Dalhousie in McCall Smith’s novel The Right Attitude to Rain, is Professor of English and Comparative Literature and Lionel Trilling Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. He is literary executor of Auden’s estate, the editor of several collections of his work, and the author of many books about him. In a conversation interspersed with readings, they discuss what Auden has meant to them personally, and the ways in which he continues to speak to us more than forty years after his death.

We are grateful to Old Possum’s Practical Trust for sponsoring this event.

Recorded on Monday 28 April 2014