Unknown Citizen by Wh Auden Term Paper

Pages: 4 (1499 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature

Poetry and the Unknown Citizen - by W.H. Auden

Introduction to Poetry: The late Stanley Kunitz received just about every prestigious award and appointment that a poet could achieve. He was named "United States Poet Laureate" in 200; he was designated "State Poet of New York"; he was "Chancellor Emeritus of The Academy of American Poets"; he won the "National Medal of the Arts" and served for two years as "Consultant in Poetry" to the Library of Congress; he won the Pulitzer Prize for his published work, Selected Poems, 1928-1958; he died on May 14, 2006, and the Academy of American Poets (www.poets.org) has published a portion of an interview they conducted with Kunitz regarding his thoughts on poetry:

Poetry is the medium of choice for giving our most hidden self a voice - the voice behind the mask that all of us wear. Poetry says, 'You are not along in the world: all your fears, anxieties, hopes, despairs are the common property of the race.' In a way, poetry is the most private of all the arts, and yet it is public too, a form of social bonding. It gains its power from the Chaos at its source, the untold secrets of the self. The power is in the mystery of the word."

There are many mysteries surrounding poetry and poets in the pages of history; one mystery is why a brilliant, high-profile poet like Langston Hughes had to struggle to survive financially. An article in the journal College Literature (Scott 2006) points out that Hughes, by 1948, had published "twenty volumes of fiction and poetry, a broad range of magazine and journal articles, a host of short stories, a Broadway play, a Broadway musical, a Hollywood screenplay, eight radio scripts..." And over a dozen popular song lyrics. Yet, that said, and with more than "a hundred appearances on the lecture circuit," Hughes "remained unable to support himself as a writer." While Hughes lived hand-to-mouth, William Faulkner was earning $1,250 a week as a writer in the 1930s and 1940s. The "problem" with Hughes, Scott writes, is that he was black, and that he had been "blacklisted" by the anticommunist movement led by Senator McCarthy of Wisconsin. Hughes was offered, then denied a "poet-in-residence" position at Texas Southern, after "threats and intimidation" from white supremacist groups in Texas.

So, being a brilliant, well-published poet doesn't mean one will automatically be successful. But the satisfaction one receives from writing poetry transcends any financial rewards that might be available. Jane Bates, a registered nurse, writing in the journal, Nursing Standard, notes that writing poetry was "cathartic" for healthcare professions "to turn hurt and stress into something artistic."

Bates informs readers that Julia Darling, poet and novelist - and a fellow in health and literature at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne - has breast cancer. And "throughout the course of her chemotherapy and radiotherapy," she has been "sustained" by writing poetry; "the imagery, rhythm and structure of poetry have helped her bring order to the chaotic emotions that inevitably accompany serious illness." Poetry "is what keeps me afloat," said Bates.

The components that are important to poetry: Meanwhile, the heart of a poem is often the imagery. The UK Website www.Poetrymagic.comsuggests that imagery is "the content of thought where attention is directed to sensory qualities." Those qualities are "mental images, figures of speech and embodiments of non-discursive truth."

There are several kinds of mental images (which are also the sensual aspects of life); sound, taste, sight, smell, touch, bodily awareness and "muscular tension," Poetry Magic asserts. And the way in which those images are transformed into imagery in poetry (and other literature) is through metaphor, simile, allegory, personification, metonymy (attribute for whole) and synecdoche (part for whole).

Imagery is very important to poetry, since poetry is a very compact, concentrated series of words designed to invoke larger, even universal meaning. Placing the most powerful images at the most poignant places in the poem - through metaphor, simile, etc. - is what builds a memorable poem. Poetry Magic suggests that imagery should be used to "externalize thought," to "create mood," to lend "continuity" and help "develop plot." When mixing metaphors, avoid doing it "too wantonly," the Poetry Magic site explains.

The English Department at Gallaudet University in the UK - led in the poetry section by Vivion Smith - explains that the kind of imagery reflected in bodily functions is "kinesthesia imagery"; and also, "synaesthesia imagery" is that which involves "the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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