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Extra info for James Merrill and W.H. Auden: Homosexuality and Poetic Influence
32 Early in Sandover Merrill calls Wystan “father of forms” (CLS, 135) and indeed it is Auden’s formalist influence that first comes to mind when we consider the relationship between these two poets. Auden viewed established metrical devices and verse forms as tools of the trade that can enable poets to say things they did not know they were capable of saying. ”33 But Auden understood that the creative process can never be an entirely rational or controlled activity. ”35 As Auden saw it, there is always an element of chance involved in the writing process, as long as the process itself follows the established conventions of the art.
26 The quotation marks around the word “normal” indicate an additional turn in Auden’s thinking about homosexuality; we recall that he uses the word in a similar context without quotation marks in his introduction to Shakespeare’s sonnets (“men and women whose tastes are perfectly normal”). At this point, Auden considers sexuality a mystery that eludes scientific and social definitions. He also advocates a complete rethinking of the binary—and therefore discriminatory— categories of sexual desire.
I did not have the advantage of getting to know it part by part, which means I did not experience the peculiar mixture of bafflement and fascination that accompanied the poem’s initial readers following the publication of separate installments in 1976, 1978, and 1980. ”69 Now that the bulky volume rests on many bookshelves between Moby Dick and Paradise Lost, it is especially necessary to acknowledge its prodigious character. H. Auden does not propose to offer anything like a definitive reading of the Ouija board trilogy.