SELECTED POEMS by Stephen Spender


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Granted that most of Spender's best work was done during the '30s and early s in consort with Auden's Oxford group; granted his later efforts are considerably latter in comparison; granted his penchant for a sort of unsentimental sentimentality, his humorless introspection; and granted the datedness of both his Old Left politics way now kid-stuff redicalism) and his modernist paeans to machinery (e.g., that famous express train which ""moves entranced/Wrapt in her music no bird song, no, nor tough/Breaking with honey buds, shall ever equal.""). Yet, granting that and perhaps more, to read the Selected Poems is still to be aware again and again of a uniquely lyric voice, at once delicate and deep, a kind of hurt heroism attempting a meeting around between the hard facts of contemporaneity (social injustice, industrial alienation, war) and the traditional emotional perplexities, the personal longings, the private vision. Spender is a bit of a romantic anomaly, the Shelley of the bread-nes and the Blitz; what saves these seemingly contradictory impulses from esthetic disaster is less the imagery or symbols (neither always apt) than the sternly sweet sincerity, the beauty of tone and gravity of belief. Collected Poems came out a decade ago; Selected Poems winnows things down by more than half, with a few alterations and some unfortunate exclusions, e.g., ""Generous Years"" etc.

Publisher: Random House