Thursday, 26 May 2011

Poetry makes things happen!

Nibir K. Ghosh. W.H. Auden: Therapeutic Fountain
New Delhi: Authorspress, 2010. 
ISBN: 978-81-7273-538-8. Rs. 525/-

Jonah Raskin

In the United States, where I live and teach, and where poetry often follows literary fashions and cultural fads, W.H. Auden's life and work have largely fallen from view. This is unfortunate because Auden was a passionate poet, and an intensely political person for much of his life, and he deserves to be remembered more widely than he is today. I hope that Nibir K. Ghosh's new, invigorating and intriguing book about Auden changes all this, and that it introduces Auden to a new generation of English-language readers all around the world. Ghosh wisely views Auden as a man on a quest; he certainly follows all of Auden's many quests, some of which led to disillusionment and sorrow. He writes about Auden warmly and intimately as though he were a friend or acquaintance. His Auden seems vulnerable and human, not a literary superstar, or a god of poetry and this too is good because it makes Auden approachable and not intimidating. The world of the 21st century is different than the 20th century that Auden inhabited; things and events move more swiftly. But our world is not entirely different than Auden's; his quests in the worlds of politics, poetry, religion and the individual person are equally meaningful today.  

"The Age of Anxiety" is the title of one of Auden’s works, and our age seems even more anxious than his. Ghosh shows how contemporary he is. "Auden had no use for abstractions which ignored the human situation," he writes. Would that more of us rejected abstractions that are blind to the here and the now. I
hope that Ghosh's heart-felt, compassionate and caring book will send readers back to Auden's poetry, essays, and plays. I know from my reading in the work of the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg how important Auden
was to young poets coming of age in the 1930s and 1940s. Perhaps poets today will hear his many different voices and rhythms and will be inspired to write the kind of poetry that Auden wrote in the 1930s -- poetry that was intensely personal and that also reached out to the family of humanity and that cried out against war and against violence.

  • Professor Jonah Raskin teaches courses in literature and media at Sonoma State University in California, U.S.A., and is the author of books on Allen Ginsberg, Jack London, and the English novel.
 Nibir K. Ghosh with Professor Jonah Raskin at Santa Rosa, California during his 2003-04 stay in the U.S.

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