Auden, W. H. (Wystan Hugh), 1907-1973 (speaker)
Auden, former faculty member, reading at Mt. Holyoke.
Wystan Hugh Auden (/ˈwɪstən ˈhjuː ˈɔːdən/; 21 February 1907 – 29 September 1973), who published as W. H. Auden, was an Anglo-American poet, born in England, later an American citizen, and is regarded by many critics as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. His work is noted for its stylistic and technical achievement, its engagement with moral and political issues, and its variety in tone, form and content. The central themes of his poetry are love, politics and citizenship, religion and morals, and the relationship between unique human beings and the anonymous, impersonal world of nature.
Auden grew up in and near Birmingham in a professional middle-class family and read English literature at Christ Church, Oxford. His early poems from the late 1920s and early 1930s, written in an intense and dramatic tone and in a style that alternated between telegraphic modern and fluent traditional, established his reputation as a left-wing political poet and prophet. In the late 1930s he became uncomfortable in this role and abandoned it after he moved to the United States in 1939, where in 1946 he became an American citizen. In his poems from the 1940s he explored religious and ethical themes in a less dramatic manner than in his earlier works, and combined traditional forms and styles with new, original forms. The focus of many of his poems from the 1950s and 1960s was on the ways in which words revealed and concealed emotions. Auden took a particular interest in writing opera librettos, a form ideally suited to direct expression of strong feelings.
He was also a prolific writer of prose essays and reviews on literary, political, psychological and religious subjects, and he worked at various times on documentary films, poetic plays and other forms of performance. Throughout his career he was both controversial and influential. After his death, some of his poems, notably “Funeral Blues” (“Stop all the clocks”), “Musée des Beaux Arts“, “Refugee Blues“, “The Unknown Citizen“, and “September 1, 1939“, became known to a much wider public than during his lifetime through films, broadcasts, and popular media.