A Photograph of Poets
A photograph of poets. Scrolling down a page on my computer screen, I was surprised to find it. I smiled to see them. They posed, looking very aware of the photographer and camera, each of them sculpted by their own vision. Good to see them in one room together. Later, I learned the photograph was taken in the office of the publisher, Faber and Faber, 24, Russell Square, in Bloomsbury, near the British Museum, London, on the twenty third of June, 1960. It would have been interesting to hear their conversation, before and after the photograph session. But it was not recorded, not even in memoir. But there they are, in black and white, from left to right, Louis MacNeice, Ted Hughes, T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, Stephen Spender. All of them smart, dressed for the city. T.S. Eliot looks eldest, Ted Hughes the youngest. All of them famous. Fame is rare for poets. What they wrote will endure. It will provide literary work for college lectures, seminars, tutorials, essays, examination questions, professor’s papers. And there will always be the few, the small circle, who read poetry for pleasure. I wonder what they would make of what happened to their art, what present poets have done to it? Critics as well as poets, they would have a lot to say. More interesting to ponder, what would they create if they still lived to write? They launched their works on the same river. They listened for words in the wind. To let them go, they had to. And when the photographer was satisfied with his photograph, T.S. Eliot, as the host, may have said: “Goodbye, all of you. Thank you for coming. Goodbye, Louis. Goodbye, Ted. Goodbye, Wynstan. Goodbye, Stephen.” And maybe they would have said to him: “Goodbye, Tom. See you soon. Goodbye. Goodbye.”
And taking different directions, they would have been soon lost in London.
T.S. Eliot, alone in his office, may then have had a cup of tea, thinking to himself: “Well, that went well.”