“His Career.” Soviet Union.
Color wood engraving, designed by Rockwell for the Friends of Lentheric.
It was hardly more than a chapbook, really — it was a hand-printed pamphlet informally published in 1928 by Auden’s friend and fellow Briton, the poet and essayist Stephen Spender (second photo). Auden would have been about 21 at the time. In other words, Auden’s career began in a manner not unlike many indie poets today.
Only about 45 copies of Poems were released. The book is today considered one of the rarest in 20th Century literature.
To make matters just a bit more confusing, Auden’s next two books of poetry, in 1930 and 1934, were likewise entitled simply Poems. (And the 1930 book had two editions.) Oddly, Auden wanted no distinctive title for any of the books because he thought a title might distract the reader from the content of the poems themselves.) The 1930 volume was accepted for publisher Faber & Faber by none other than T.S. Eliot, who was one of his earliest influences.