The Age of Auden: Postwar Poetry and the American Scene

By Aidan Wasley | Go to book overview

3
The Gay Apprentice
Ashbery Auden, and a Portrait of the Artist
as a Young Critic

It is a well-rehearsed episode in the history of postwar American poetry that W. H. Auden selected John Ashbery for the Yale Younger Poets Prize in 1956, inaugurating the younger writer’s public career as the most honored and influential American poet of his generation. What is less well-known by readers and critics, however, is that Ashbery had chosen Auden more than a decade earlier. While critical accounts of Ashbery’s poetics have often, and justifiably, emphasized his connections to Wallace Stevens, Ashbery himself claims Auden as his most significant poetic model. “He was the first big influence on my work, more so than Stevens,” he has said, contra Harold Bloom, his earliest and most influential critical champion, who has prominently placed Ashbery in the lineage of what he calls the “American Sublime” line of Emerson, Whitman, and Stevens.1 “Auden was the most important because he came first,” Ashbery has continued to remind interviewers.2 Indeed, on one occasion, when asked about the importance of Auden to his own poetry, Ashbery responded with a chuckle and his best imitation of one of his friend Bloom’s characteristic oracular pronouncements: “Once, when I pointed out to him that he sort of ignored Auden’s effect on me, Har-

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The Age of Auden: Postwar Poetry and the American Scene
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Preface xiii
  • Prologue - Auden in [Atlantis] 1
  • Part I 31
  • 1- A Way of Happening - Auden's American Presence 33
  • Part II 75
  • 2- Father of Forms - Merrill, Auden, and a Fable of Influence 77
  • 3- The Gay Apprentice - Ashbery Auden, and a Portrait of the Artist as a Young Critic 109
  • 4- The Old Sources - Rich, Auden, and Making Something Happen 145
  • Epilogue - He Became His Admirers Saying Goodbye to Auden 175
  • Notes 209
  • Index 243
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