Doing Battle With T.S. Eliot

I’ve been a fan of T.S. Eliot since high school. His poems aren’t the easiest and he easily defines modernism and stands far apart from Victorian and post-modernist works. His work however is some of the most rewarding. Everyone recognizes The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and I see it as the scorn of professors and English teachers. In my experience, teachers wriggle under the poems magnitude. It’s pretty hilarious. In one of my last poetry classes I decided not to pipe up and just listen to the professor. His explanation was like the scene when Rocky tried to catch the chicken for the first time. He was sweating bullets, panting, confused, and lost. The poem was also pissing him off, not erratically, but I could tell he wanted to move on. If you miss a beat it is hard to get back on track. I’m certain that other students were confused by the poem so anything the professor said wasn’t questioned. Also, Prufrock never showed up on any of our tests.

At any rate, I was in LA visiting a pal and we decided to take a stab at: Portrait of a Lady. A poem written by a young T.S. Eliot about a young man. It’s really concise and neatly-put-together and says tons about the individual, societal interactions, media, and modern civilization and her impotence. Even if you never read the entire poem or make attempts at breaking the lines here are some wonderful excerpts:

“So intimate, this Chopin, that I think his soul
Should be resurrected only among friends
Some two or three, who will not touch the bloom
That is rubbed and questioned in the concert room.”
And my favorite:
— Let us take the air, in a tobacco trance,
Admire the monuments,
Discuss the late events,
Correct our watches by the public clocks.
Then sit for half an hour and drink our bocks.

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Filed under essays, reading

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