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Letter to Auden

Authors: N.S. Thompson

Published by Smokestack Books

ISBN: 9780956417510

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'I want a form that’s large enough to swim in,' wrote W.H. Auden in 'Letter to Lord Byron' – 'And talk on any subject that I choose,/ From natural scenery to men and women,/ Myself, the arts, the European news'.

Auden was writing in 1936 to the ghost of the long-dead Byron, to tell him about recent developments in poetry and politics. Seventy years later, N. S. Thompson decided it was time somebody wrote to Auden in order to bring him up to speed with events since his death in 1973.

Letter to Auden is an anti-heroic verse-epistle, combining Byron’s savage wit and Auden’s breezy conversational manner. Like 'Letter to Lord Byron' it is written in rime royal. And like any good letter, as Auden says, it is full of 'enclosures… a bunch of photographs,/ Some out of focus, some with wrong exposures,/ Press cuttings, gossip, maps, statistics, graphs.'

Letter to Auden is a study in contemporary manners, mores, culture and politics. It’s a manifesto for metrical craft, epigrammatic wit and dazzling rhymes. It’s a poem, a letter, an anachronism, a parody and a bagatelle. It’s an irreverent and original venture into the world of the Audenesque, and a homage to one of the twentieth-century’s greatest poets.

"The historically-defined rime royal is like a fine period instrument, waiting to be picked up by the virtuoso. Here the satirical Stradivarius breezes and bites masterfully again in Thompson's sharp-tongued Letter to Auden: there are some stinging comic rhymes and more than a hint of medieval robustness."
W.N. Herbert

Nigel Thompson was born in Manchester in 1950. He worked in Italy for several years as the curator of Casa Guidi, the Florence home of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. His publications include Chaucer, Boccaccio and the Debate of Love, several chapbooks of poetry and a full-length collection, The Home Front.
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