Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage against the dying of the light with a well-mixed martini in your hand.
In a recent post about a Vox spoken-poetry performance, Art Scatter mentioned in passing “the magician’s drone of listening to the likes of W.H. Auden reciting his own work.” That phrase caught the attention of playwright, novelist and filmmaker Charles Deemer, who passed along the following memory of the great gimlet-eyed poet. (And, yes, we know it was Dylan Thomas who advised against going gentle into that good night. Thomas was known to pack away a brew or two, himself.)
Since you mention Auden …” Deemer writes, “his magical readings were more magical than meets the eye.
In 1963 I had the honor of hosting Auden, who was giving a reading at a community college I attended at the time. There was a dinner and reception before the reading, during which he drank, by my own nervous count, a dozen martinis! And seemed drunk. We didn’t know what to do, and when approached he assured us all was fine, no, he didn’t want any coffee …. so off we went to the reading, nervous as hell. He still seemed drunk to me when he went to the podium. Then somehow he didn’t. He gave a brilliant, flawless reading. Then he stepped away, seemed drunk again, and wanted to know when he could have a drink.
Remembering Auden’s feat got Deemer going, and he passed along another couple of encounters.