The Dyer’s Hand and Other Essays, by W.H. Auden

This is the book I was looking for and the book I am ready for.

Auden’s the sort of chap I need to know more of. I haven’t read my way through enough of his poems, but he’s got a few I’ve been really fond of for a few years now. He’s the kind of chap who praised Tolkien and includes throughout his writings enough random quotations from Charles Williams to make one think he read him rather avidly. A curious mind, a most curious mind and a voracious. His essay on ‘The Virgin and the Dynamo’ is and extraordinary (as in, not ordinary–which is not how this word is usually meant) meditation on poetry, if it is intelligible–which I suspect it is. It is private too I suspect (when I can make more of it than presently I’ll know), the way Yeats stuff is, and yet able to suggest so much. The tome stars with an essay on Reading and then another on Writing which both consist of what appear to be a series of discreet, epigrammatic paragraphs. And they work, and they please.

My kind of book. Compare it to the collected essays of any great poet and you will find it is like them in that it is sui generis–perfectly so, and, as I like to say when I run out of words, astonishing. Part of life’s limited shelf of 300.

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2 thoughts on “The Dyer’s Hand and Other Essays, by W.H. Auden

  1. Hi, I’m reading the Dyer’s hand at the minute, while I thoroughly enjoyed the first section I found ‘the Virgin and the dynamo’ rather difficult, I’m going to read it again but I’d be interested to know what you made of it in more detail?
    And I agree, reading this makes me want to read more of Auden’s work

  2. Difficult. Wish I could help you, but I got the book from the library and don’t have it. I remember him talking about sacred things–objects, places etc., that are special and for being seen with those eyes, are understood better by certain people.

    If that’s the correct essay I’m remembering. Anyway, I thought it was insightful. It isn’t that these elements he calls sacred in things aren’t always present, but for various reasons some people are aware of them and many mostly not. And so the poet opens the wonder of these things by the artifice of poetry to the rest of the world.

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