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Who Was Worst Famous Poet Of The 20th Century?

He simply cannot write a decent line, let alone a decent poem.

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But we’ve been more loyal to Auden. After all, he’s not some peripheral Pole, he’s all we want to salvage from the muck of Europe in the 30s. Not because he’s the best writer of the period; he doesn’t even deserve to make the top thousand. The real list would be headed by Celine, a self-proclaimed “man of hate,” and Stevens, whose attitude toward the Great Depression was sneering contempt:

I heard two workers say, “This chaos

Will soon be ended.”

This chaos will not be ended…

Nobody at NYU really wanted to hear that, let alone Stevens’ views on WW II (envy at the attention it got, mixed with disdain for the hokiness of literal bombs) – let alone Celine’s magnificent contempt for the postwar, peaceful reverent suburbs.

What they wanted, more than ever, was Auden: a physically handsome old man with a grieving smile that managed to imply vast old-world suffering – from which the old man had distilled a vague Christianity; not the alarming redneck sort that was already lapping at the cities’ edges but a safe, neutered devotion beyond politics. Above all: beyond politics. After all, he had been a commie, and was now safely in the highbrow conservative camp.

The fact that he never could write a lick had nothing to do with it.

John Dolan is a poet and author of Pleasant Hell (Capricorn, 2005).

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