Spender, Stephen (Vol. 1)

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Spender, Stephen 1909–

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Spender is an English poet and novelist, and former editor of Encounter. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 11-12.)

Stephen Spender had begun very much under Auden's influence, but had shown from the beginning a preference for simpler lyrical modes and a much less complicated sensibility…. Spender lacked metaphysical wit, and his poetry is both less complex and less exciting than Auden's; but from the beginning he could show a quiet control in descriptive or confessional verse that has its own appeal….

Spender's range is limited. After he had outgrown his rather shrill imitation of Auden he cultivated his own quiet autobiographical style, as unlike Auden's really as any modern poetry could be, and equally unlike Eliot….

David Daiches, The Present Age in British Literature, Indiana University Press, 1958, pp. 48-9.

Spender is an uneven poet, and many of his interesting poems, which hold us by reason of their sensitiveness or evident sincerity, fail to achieve full harmony of style or total unity of effect…. Spender is [a] most personal poet … [and his poems are] largely private confessions….

All that is most positive in Spender's poetry would seem to spring from gestures of imaginative and emotional charity; and it is, of course, this aspect of his work that most engages the Christian critical mind. Against Spender's disposition of mind and his poems, which may be viewed as his "good works" (both being interpretable in a pan-Christian fashion), must be placed his rejection of belief and his repudiation of the church as an enemy of light and the forces of the new…. Spender's position with regard to faith is therefore not an anti- but a non-relational one….

In the poet's scheme of things, love takes the place of deity, though he is careful to allot it no omnipotent power. [Part] of Spender's originality lay in his thinking of eros as agape. He envisaged libidinal self-fulfilment in terms of the love-feast of brothers, camaraderie and intimacy between all men, and a personal care and concern for their condition….

Everywhere, in speaking of love and socialism, Spender seeks to present an organic image—a physical objective correlative, which shall express the actual or potential concrete living of the situation…. Spender's large avoidance of the abstract, with which Marxist thought is overloaded, gave to his poetry an immediate appeal all too rare in Communist poets.

Derek Stanford, Stephen Spender, Louis MacNeice, Cecil Day Lewis ("Contemporary Writers in...

(The entire section contains 632 words.)

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