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Old 03-25-2017, 07:47 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Default Auden's The Night Mail

I will always be jealous that Auden got to write for the UK General Post Office (GPO) in the 30’s.

Check out this clip of “The Night Mail” documentary if you don’t know it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmciuKsBOi0

The Night Mail (excerpts)

This is the night mail crossing the border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,

Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner, the girl next door…

Letters of thanks, letters from banks,
Letters of joy from girl and boy,
Receipted bills and invitations
To inspect new stock or to visit relations,
And applications for situations,
And timid lovers’ declarations,
And gossip, gossip from all the nations,
News circumstantial, news financial,
Letters with holiday snaps to enlarge in,
Letters with faces scrawled on the margin,
Letters from uncles, cousins, and aunts,
Letters to Scotland from the South of France,
Letters of condolence to Highlands and Lowlands
Written on paper of every hue,
The pink, the violet, the white and the blue,
The chatty, the catty, the boring, the adoring,
The cold and official and the heart’s outpouring,
Clever, stupid, short and long,
The typed and the printed and the spelt all wrong…
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Old 03-26-2017, 02:27 AM
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Ann Drysdale Ann Drysdale is offline
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That poem was one of the first I heard, on the wireless in my formative years. I was bounced to it on my grandfather's knee, with the railway sounds, the changing rhythms, explained and acted-out. I was afraid it had become a relic of the age of steam and I am delighted that it resonates with a later generation.

.

Last edited by Ann Drysdale; 03-26-2017 at 03:41 AM. Reason: removed a link to a thread that might have been construed as "own-poem" posting.
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Old 03-26-2017, 10:18 AM
Nigel Mace Nigel Mace is offline
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Many memories and associations - of a film which had its place in my history and film lecture rooms. (My first daughter learned the lines on my knee aged 3 while watching the GPO film on my editing desk.) Less known are the precise circumstances in which Auden worked on producing the finished work. He was stuck at a small writing table, facing a wall at the end of a corridor in the GPO Fim Unit's premises and, as the editing process of the film went on, he'd be told that possible sections would/would not 'fit'. These were often screwed up and chucked over his shoulder at a handy waste basket. Basil Wright recalls that they included a passage describing the Border hills as piled up like "flanks of slaughtered horses".
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Old 03-26-2017, 11:20 AM
Brian Watson Brian Watson is offline
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The British Film Institute has produced a series of these excellent documentaries: British Transport Films, also uploaded to Youtube: British Transport Film Collection.

I could have sworn the original British Transport documentary had Auden himself reading the poem. I have certainly seen a good video using Auden's own reading, but I can't seem to find it.
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Old 03-26-2017, 12:06 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Ann and Nigel, thanks for sharing your UK memories--that's what I had hoped to hear about on this thread.

Nigel, yes, I would love to see the "out-takes" from "The Night Mail"--I bet they are hilarious.

Brian, thank you for commenting. If you can find a recording of Auden reading "The Night Mail" I would love to hear it. Please do post it here.

Best,

Aaron

Last edited by Aaron Poochigian; 03-26-2017 at 05:52 PM.
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Old 03-26-2017, 04:08 PM
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Woody Long Woody Long is offline
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Aaron —

Thanks for posting this.

I imagine there would be little dramatic effect in a poem and a documentary film about email and texting.

— Woody
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Old 03-26-2017, 04:36 PM
Nigel Mace Nigel Mace is offline
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No, Brian - the original recording is actually John Grierson himself, the organiser and éminence grise of the whole GPO Film Unit.
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