Band 6 Auden with Diaz

“The power of a composer to shape political perspectives of events, personas and histories are the lessons taught by the study of People and Politics.”

Any act of representation of events, history and personage is inherently a political act. As such, composers utilise persuasive and meticulous control over language to present literature that allow us to perceive their political motive and perspective. This idea is particularly evident in WH Auden’s poems, ‘In Memory of WB Yeats,’ (1939) and ‘September 1st 1939’ (1939) where Auden represents the dynamic which exists in the power of writer’s composition against political zeitgeist of events and opinions. This particular aspect of representation is further demonstrated in Jorge Diaz’s picture book, ‘The Rebellious Alphabet,’ (1993) which employs strong visual motifs to highlight the great importance of free speech and uncensored voices in a totalitarian world, to regain freedom and individual agency. Hence, both composers’ deliberate manipulation of language lends us socio-political insight into the necessity of an unconstrained voice in breaking through the chains of apathy and complacency towards institutions that have been eroding our free will and choice.

In Auden’s ‘In Memory of WB Yeats,’ the poet parallels historical and political events and persona, appropriating the legacy of WB Yeats, Irish poet and composer of Easter 1916, to represent the power of literature and the potential of artistic voices in shaping political perspectives and sentiments. He chooses to present it in the form of an elegy to show his reverence towards such an influential figure, despite the death of Yeats in the line, ‘words of a dead man are modified in the guts of the living.’ The binary opposition of dead and living promulgates the power of poetry and its ideas in terms of its timelessness and immortality. This aspect of poetry is particularly exemplified in the metaphor, ‘For poetry makes nothing happen … it survives, a way of happening, a mouth,’ although poetry doesn’t instantaneously catalyse great political reform, it lives in the ideas spoken by people’s mouths. Furthermore, Auden represents that the individual voice, through composition and literature, can shift political discourse, ‘With the farming of a verse, make a vineyard of the curse.’ The objective correlative portrays how the act of cultivating literature is inherently a political writing and can unveil the curse of deceit, censorship and propaganda. It allows people to be elucidated on the truth and this is symbolised by the vineyard which evokes an image of beauty and prosperity. Furthermore, in the lines, ‘in the prison of his days teach the free man how to praise.’ The double inference, tells us how man can teach others and inspires us because no matter what the situation, it is still possible to spread an idea. These views can be perceived in subsequent events such as speeches of widely influential figures of Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Gandhi whose voices, despite being in a context of hostile politics and imprisonment, affected politics and history. It is very evident that in this poem, Auden chooses to represent the vast influence of late WB Yeats to show his own political perspective of the power of an unconstrained, uncensored individual voice through the appropriation of historical parallels.

Auden’s purpose is to inform us of his political and ethical insights and this is visible in ‘September 1st 1939,’ which, in a context of America’s apathy towards Germany’s invasion of Poland, Auden represents a society whose apathy stems from ignorant optimism and wilful blindness. Here, Auden communicates through his poem, the need for meaningful action against totalitarian powers. This is first done through pointing out the competing ideas of power and conflict in the United States’, ‘neutral air … blind skyscrapers … proclaim strength of collective man … pours its vain Competitive excuse.’ Auden highlights these amazing constructs as a symbol and testament to the vast power, technology, progress and modernity that the US possesses. Yet, this is all undermined by their ignorance of the injustice around them. Furthermore, the word ‘Competitive,’ can be seen as a direct criticism towards capitalist societies whose belief is that wealth equates to power and are ironically less inclined to fight. This satirical depiction puts us in a position to feel disdain at the complacency that such states have. Yet, Auden will free us from such societies who promote competition to restrict our thoughts to mundane, day to day issues we encounter. ‘Who can release them now, who can reach the deaf, who can speak for the dumb?’ He uses a biblical allusion to say that his voice will be the one to guide and free us. This climactic peak is instantly juxtaposed with the soft and gentle, ‘All I have is a voice to undo the folded lie, the romantic lie in the brain,’ the impact of his statement is only accentuated with the cathartic resolution. Just like Yeats, his uncensored voice can destroy the illusions or propaganda in people’s heads, the pretty lie and comfort that apathy brings, and enlighten his audience of the political and historical realities of war. His poem can be seen as having significant foresight and political impact as USA eventually joined the war and became one of the most powerful countries in the world. In this manner, Auden’s powerful voice and careful manipulation of language allows him to be like Yeats and use his poetry to alter political discourse.

Similar to Auden’s illustrations of how an individual voice can alter indifferent perceptions, Jorge Diaz’s, ‘Rebellious Alphabet,’ depicts how literature can educate and grant people the courage to challenge authoritative figures. His motivation was attributed towards dictators such as Hitler and Stalin, but closer to his late 20th century context, Gaddafi and Kim Jung Il, whose rule violated human rights. Diaz represents his perspective towards such figures through the saturated, monotonous brown colour which paints an atmosphere of anxiety and bleakness. This is maintained through the inclusion of a ‘Village Crier who said what Little General ordered,’ which is historical allusion to totalitarian regimes that rule through propaganda and censorship. Yet, Diaz deliberately represents the recurring motif of canaries in very vibrant watercolours to act as the unrestrained voice and a beacon of hope. He puts us in a position to revere the power of a singular voice as instantaneously, the saturated colours are replaced with the antithetical luminous colour scheme, replacing the bleak atmosphere with a hopeful one. Furthermore, Diaz illustrates that it is impossible to destroy literature, ‘poems, protests and history disappeared in the flame,’ the powerful tri-colon here is a direct contextual reference to the Nazi’s book burning. Yet, as Auden had stated in ‘In Memory,’ poetry is immortal as its idea is embedded in the heads of people, awaiting a catalyst to burst out. Diaz, like Auden, utilises representation of various historical events to reveal his political perspective of the power of literature in educating civilians on the concept of liberty and free will. Its ramifications can cause political reform and great advancement as in the final scene, the depiction is that of a harmonious, peaceful library with a multitude of warm array of watercolours. Thus, Jorge Diaz’s illustrations expose his desire to inform others of his perspective that a simple courageous voice can alter political discourse and even invoke political reform.

Any act of representation of events, history and personage is inherently a political act that aims to persuade and influence responder’s perspectives. The power of a composer in accomplishing this is demonstrated by WH Auden’s meticulous control of language in his poetry. This is particularly evident in, ‘In Memory of WB Yeats,’ (1939) and ‘September 1 1939’ (1939) where Auden represents the dynamic which exists in the power of writer’s composition against political discourse of events, history and personage. This fundamental aspect of representation is further demonstrated in Jorge Diaz’s picture book, ‘The Rebellious Alphabet,’ (1993) which employs strong visual motifs and historical allusions to powerful figures, to highlight the great importance of free speech and uncensored voices in a totalitarian world in regaining freedom and individual agency. Through studying People and Politics I have learned how composers’ deliberate manipulation of language can position and shape the responder’s perspective.

In Auden’s ‘In Memory of WB Yeats,’ the poet parallels historical and political events and persona, appropriating the legacy of WB Yeats, Irish poet and composer of Easter 1916, to represent the power of literature and the potential of artistic voices in shaping political perspectives and sentiments. He chooses to present it in the form of an elegy to show his reverence towards such an influential figure, despite the physical death of Yeats in the line, ‘words of a dead man are modified in the guts of the living.’ The binary opposition of dead and living promulgates the power of poetry and its ideas in terms of its timelessness and immortality. This aspect of poetry is particularly exemplified in the metaphor, ‘For poetry makes nothing happen … it survives, a way of happening, a mouth,’ although poetry doesn’t instantaneously catalyse great political reform, it lives in the ideas spoken by people’s mouths. Furthermore, Auden represents that the individual voice, through composition and literature, can shift political discourse, ‘With the farming of a verse, make a vineyard of the curse.’ The objective correlative portrays how the act of cultivating literature is inherently a political writing and can unveil the curse of deceit, censorship and propaganda. It allows people to be elucidated on the truth and this is symbolised by the vineyard which evokes an image of beauty and prosperity. Furthermore, in the lines, ‘in the prison of his days teach the free man how to praise.’ The double inference, tells us how man can teach others and inspires us because no matter what the situation, it is still possible to spread an idea. These views can be perceived in subsequent events such as speeches of widely influential figures of Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Gandhi whose voices, despite being in a context of hostile politics and imprisonment, affected politics and history. Auden’s portrayal of the vast influence of late WB Yeats through historical parallels influences our own perceptions and positions us to respect personas like Yeats whose literature was capable of educating many others.

Auden’s purpose is to inform us of his political and ethical insights and this is visible in ‘September 1st 1939,’ which, in a historical context of America’s apathy towards Germany’s invasion of Poland, Auden represents a society whose apathy stems from ignorant optimism and wilful blindness. Here, Auden communicates through his poem, the need for meaningful action against totalitarian powers. This is first done through pointing out the competing ideas of power and conflict in the United States’, ‘neutral air … blind skyscrapers … proclaim strength of collective man … pours its vain Competitive excuse.’ Auden highlights these amazing constructs as a symbol and testament to the vast power, technology, progress and modernity that the US possesses. Yet, this is all undermined by their ignorance of the injustice around them. Furthermore, the word ‘Competitive,’ can be seen as a direct criticism towards capitalist societies whose belief is that wealth equates to power and are ironically less inclined to fight. This satirical depiction puts us in a position to feel disdain at the complacency that such states have. Yet, Auden will free us from such societies who promote competition to restrict our thoughts to mundane, day to day issues we encounter. ‘Who can release them now, who can reach the deaf, who can speak for the dumb?’ He uses a biblical allusion to say that his voice will be the one to guide and free us. This climactic peak is instantly juxtaposed with the soft and gentle, ‘All I have is a voice to undo the folded lie, the romantic lie in the brain,’ the impact of his statement is only accentuated with the cathartic resolution. Just like Yeats, his uncensored voice can destroy the illusions or propaganda in people’s heads, the pretty lie and comfort that apathy brings, and enlighten his audience of the political and historical realities of war. His poem can be seen as having significant foresight and political impact as USA eventually joined the war and became one of the most powerful countries in the world. Auden’s powerful voice and careful manipulation of language allows him to be like Yeats and use his poetry to alter political discourse. His negative representation of America’s lack of response in such a monumentally catastrophic event aims to persuade and convince us to possess the same view and this perfectly demonstrates the fundamental aspect of People and Politics.

Similar to Auden’s illustrations of how an individual voice through representations of events or histories, can alter preconceptions of many, Jorge Diaz’s, ‘Rebellious Alphabet,’ depicts within the text, how a composer’s work can educate and grant people the courage to challenge authoritative figures. His motivation was attributed towards tyrannical personas such as Hitler and Stalin, but closer to his late 20th century context, Gaddafi and Kim Jung Il, whose rule violated human rights. Diaz represents his perspective towards such figures through the saturated, monotonous brown colour which paints an atmosphere of anxiety and bleakness. This is maintained through the inclusion of a ‘Village Crier who said what Little General ordered,’ which is historical allusion to totalitarian regimes that rule through propaganda and censorship. Yet, Diaz deliberately represents the recurring motif of canaries in very vibrant watercolours to act as the unrestrained voice and a beacon of hope. He puts us in a position to revere the power of a singular voice as instantaneously, the saturated colours are replaced with the antithetical luminous colour scheme, replacing the bleak atmosphere with a hopeful one. Furthermore, Diaz illustrates that it is impossible to destroy literature, ‘poems, protests and history disappeared in the flame,’ the powerful tri-colon here is a direct contextual reference to the Nazi’s book burning. Yet, as Auden had stated in ‘In Memory,’ poetry is immortal as its idea is embedded in the heads of people, awaiting a catalyst to burst out. Diaz, like Auden, utilises representation of various historical events to reveal his political perspective of the power of literature in educating civilians on the concept of liberty and free will. Its ramifications can cause political reform and great advancement as in the final scene, the depiction is that of a harmonious, peaceful library with a multitude of warm array of watercolours. Thus, Jorge Diaz’s illustrations that reference historical personas that rule through dictatorship exposes his desire to inform others of his perspective that a simple courageous voice can alter political discourse and even invoke political reform.

The way representations of either history, events or personas, in People and Politics, can shift political perspectives allowed for my realisation of the great power that individual composers wield.

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