POETS: Other Voices

In his elegy on the death of Yeats, W.H. Auden wrote that "poetry makes nothing happen" and added, "It survives,/ A way of happening, a mouth." This sentiment seems a long step down from Shelley's 19th century claim that poets are "the unacknowledged legislators of the world." But both statements add up to the same thing: the practical life of getting and spending needs, however grudgingly, the exhilaration and consolation of poetry, of memorable speech, of words striving to be true to themselves. The 20th century perfected the hard sells of propaganda and advertising, but talented people still worked to keep...

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