by Gary Kaplan
What poetry does
“Poetry is typically the touchstone that we go back to when we have to remind ourselves of the
history that we stand on, and the future that we stand for.” –Amanda Gorman
“Poetry makes nothing happen,” wrote W.H. Auden in his tribute to W.B. Yeats. The line was a typically irreverent Auden quip. He loved to shock and subvert, but under his surface flippancy ran a deep current of humanistic faith. Yeats died on January 28, 1939. Germany invaded Poland on September 1, igniting the Second World War. Auden’s In Memory of W.B. Yeats was written in 1940, as was his September 1, 1939. Both poems attempted to find a way out of the “negation and despair” of a world collapsing.