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there is only one thing that all poetry must do

March 5, 2010

“Whatever its actual content and overt interest, every poem is rooted in imaginative awe. Poetry can do a hundred and one things, delight, sadden, disturb, amuse, instruct– it may express every possible shade of emotion, and describe every conceivable kind of event, but there is only one thing that all poetry must do; it must praise all it can for being and for happening.”

-W.H. Auden, from his Inaugural Lecture, upon accepting the post of Oxford Professor of Poetry, 6/11/1956

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