I wonder if they'd come to Auden differently if we moved in a random way through the poetry, and viewed his work after say, Wordsworth's daffodils. Would we be so prepared to see the uncertainty, the clarity of flaw in the world arranged in neat, unpanicked sheets of stressed and non-stressed lines, to hear such a dry illumination of the human condition? I think Eliot did something amazing to poetry when he wrote "The Waste Land," though perhaps not the something he set out to do. James Merrill said, "All of Auden's poems were written on paper on which the tears had dried." My students are ready to move out of the abstract, out of what they appreciate as Eliot's real chaos, into attempting a shape—but with a kind of awareness that the poem has to survive. It was the middle of the twentieth century, after all, and mere consolation, already out of fashion, helps no one.
Image of paper via A Moment of Silence.