W H Auden

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W H Auden, 1939
W H Auden (Wystan Hugh Auden, 1907-1973) was a poet, critic and scholar. We was born in York, the younghest son of a doctor and a nurse, he grew up in Birmingham and was educated at St Edmund's School, Hindhead, Surrey, where he met Christopher Isherwood, Gresham's School, Norfolk, where he met Robert Medley, and Christ Church, Oxford. In 1935 he married the lesbian German writer and actress Erika Mann, daughter of Thomas Mann, to provide her with a British pasport and enable her to leave Germany.

Auden wrote passionately about social problems and post-World War I anxiety. His books of poems include Poems (1930); The Orators, an English Study (1932); Journey to a War (1939), which expressed his political and anti-war sentiments; Another Time (1940), which "contains lighter and more romantic verse;" and The Age of Anxiety (1947), which won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for poetry (however, his earlier work is viewed by some critics as his best work). Auden's other awards included King George's Gold Medal for Poetry in 1937, the Bollingen Poetry Prize in 1954, and the National Medal for Literature in 1967. He also co-wrote three plays with Christopher Isherwood.

Auden held the Oxford chair in poetry from 1956 to 1961 (returning as an honorary fellow in 1972); he also taught, read his poems, and lectured at colleges across the United States and England, encouraging young poets. Although born in England, during his lifetime Auden lived in Germany (where he saw Nazism's rise), the United States (immigrating in 1939, he became a citizen in 1946), Italy, and Austria. His daring technique, influenced by Hopkins and Eliot, opened the way for younger writers.

In 1939, the 32 year-old Auden met in a swimming bath a handsome 18 year-old youth, Chester Kallman from Brooklin, and they fell in love. Even though Kallman had other relationships and affairs, they had a 34-year-long, stormy relationship, up to Auden's death. Auden collaborated with Kallman, who became a poet, on opera librettist. He never wrote about his homosexuality except for a few poems which he did not publicly acknowledge, but he was not closeted in his life outside the public sphere.


Based on an article on the Koymasky website.

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