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Joseph Auslander


Joseph Auslander was born on October 11, 1897, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He received a BA from Harvard University in 1917, and in 1924 he received a Parker Fellowship to study at the Sorbonne. That same year, he published his first book of poetry, Sunrise Trumpets (Harper & Brothers, 1924).

Auslander was also the author of the poetry collections Riders at the Gate (Macmillan, 1938), Letters to Women (Harper & Brothers, 1929), and Cyclops’ Eye (Harper & Brothers, 1926), among others. Known for his war poetry, he collaborated with his wife, the poet Audrey Wurdemann, to write The Unconquerables: Salutes to the Undying Spirit of the Nazi-Occupied Countries (Simon and Schuster, 1943). This collection is thought to have encouraged participation in the War Loan drives during World War II.

Auslander and Wurdemann also coauthored two novels, The Islanders (Longmans, Green and Co., 1951) and My Uncle Jan (Longmans, Green and Co., 1948). With Frank Ernest Hill, Auslander wrote The Winged Horse: The Story of the Poets and their Poetry (Doubleday, 1927).

After serving as a lecturer in poetry at Columbia University from 1929 to 1937, Auslander was appointed the first consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress on July 7, 1937. He served in this newly defined role until 1941, when Archibald MacLeish, the Librarian of Congress, established a term limit.

Auslander was the recipient of the Robert Frost Award, given by the Poetry Society of America, and the Royal Saint Olav Medal, given by the king of Norway. He died of a heart attack on June 22, 1965, in Coral Gables, Florida.

Selected Bibliography

The Unconquerables: Salutes to the Undying Spirit of the Nazi-Occupied Countries (Simon and Schuster, 1943)
Riders at the Gate (Macmillan, 1938)
More than Bread (Macmillan, 1936)
Green World (Harper & Brothers, 1935)
No Traveller Returns (Harper & Brothers, 1935)
Letters to Women (Harper & Brothers, 1929)
Cyclops’ Eye (Harper & Brothers, 1926)
Sunrise Trumpets (Harper & Brothers, 1924)

The Islanders (Longmans, Green and Co., 1951)
My Uncle Jan (Longmans, Green and Co., 1948)
Five American Immortals (Achille J. St. Onge, 1940)
The Winged Horse: The Story of the Poets and their Poetry (Doubleday, 1927)

By This Poet



Vacant and ghostly and content with death,
Once a man’s hearthtree; now the haunt of bats;
Once a cradle creaked upstairs and someone sang
The terribly beautiful songs young mothers know.

It is hard, even though you hold your breath,
To step without disturbing the loosened slats
And livid plaster…. Go! for a whisper rang
Through the bleak rafters: Take up your things and go!

I Know It Will Be Quiet When You Come

I know it will be quiet when you come:
No wind; the water breathing steadily;
A light like ghost of silver on the sea;
And the surf dreamily fingering his drum.
Twilight will drift in large and leave me numb
With nearness to the last tranquility;
And then the slow and languorous tyranny
Of orange moon, pale night, and cricket hum.

And suddenly there will be twist of tide,
A rustling as of thin silk on the sand,
The tremor of a presence at my side,
The tremble of a hand upon my hand:
And pulses sharp with pain, and fires fanned,
And words that stumble into stars and hide.

Is This the Lark!

Is this the lark
Lord Shakespeare heard
Out of the dark
Of dawn! Is this the bird
That stirred
Lord Shakespeare’s heart!

Is this the bird whose wing,
Whose rapturous antheming,
Rose up, soared radiant, became
Sharp flame
To Shelley listening
And made him sing,
Throbbing alone, aloof, feveredly apart,
His profuse strains of unpremeditated art!

To think that I should hear him now
Telling that single fiery rift of heaven a wild lark comes! …
The fresh cool scent of earth yearns at the plough;
In short keen rapid flurries the woodpecker drums….
To think that I should hear that mad thing sliding
Along a smoking opal ladder!
Hear that inevitable deluge of music riding
Into the sun, richer now—fainter now—madder!
To think that I should hear and know
The song that Shelley heard, and Shakespeare, long ago!