W.H. Auden’s words “poetry makes nothing happen” are famous, though even in the poem where they were first proclaimed they were quickly turned on their head. For, in the very last stanza of ‘In Memory of W.B. Yeats’, Auden concludes that the task of the poet is both to teach the free man how to praise, and to help the wounded heart heal itself. But these are, of course, actions in the world: happenings inspired by the creative word. And, indeed, we all know this from experience. It may not be an immediate transformation of one’s whole being but, more often, a significant mutation of feeling or ...


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