This film was made in two parts: actors reciting Auden’s poetry, and Auden reading from his own work and talking about his aesthetics.
At the time of filming, W. H. Auden (1907- 1973) was a professor at Oxford University though this program was produced in New York City, Auden’s main residence. His reputation in English letters had passed well beyond enfant terrible to that of elder statesman. He was both praised and scorned by the academic community for being so accessible.
Poems including “September 1, 1939” and “Funeral Blues” (“...stop all the clocks...”) are widely known through their use in popular media.
Auden’s work was informed by wide learning in history, politics, and psychology; he wrote love lyrics, humorous verse, book length poems, essays, critical studies, travel journals, translations and plays.