I’ve generally been featuring poets that were already pretty well-known by the time I get to them (with some exceptions), but I want to use today’s poem to call attention to a poet who, in 1928, was still starting out where friends of mine now are. He was trying to get his start in poetry—he had a little book entitled Poems published by hand (and eventually by a tiny publisher), with so few poems included that, though I haven’t seen an image of the first edition (of which somewhere between 30 and 45 copies were made), I feel pretty certain it was a “chapbook”. Nice to know W. H. Auden started out publishing chapbooks and trying to get noticed—I suppose most poets do, but I often don’t take the time to think about it. Auden’s a great poet who, in 1928, is still finding his voice: I’m curious what you think of the following untitled poem from his debut publication—
Nor was that final, for about that time
Gannets, blown over northward, going home,
Surprised the secrecy beneath the skin.
‘Wonderful was that cross, and I full of sin.’
‘Approaching, utterly generous, came one,
For years expected, born only for me.’
Returned from that dishonest country, we
Awake, yet tasting the delicious lie;
And boys and girls, equal to be, are different still.
No, these bones shall live, while daffodil
And saxophone have something to recall
Of Adam’s brow and of the wounded heel.