What did you ever do?
Please note that today I also took my first final exam of the summer. Two more classes, two more papers, and one more final to go! I was also supposed to write one of my papers today but I haven’t gotten around to that yet. Ah well, the night is young.
I have not yet read all of T.S. Eliot’s poetry, so if I sound as if I’m speaking of things I don’t understand, I probably am. Apologies. Let’s call these “thoughts so far.”
I didn’t read “The Waste Land” until this spring. I have known and loved “Prufrock” since I was pretty small—my dad used to quote from that piece fairly often. “Let us go then you and I,/When the evening is spread out across the sky/Like a patient etherized upon a table.” I don’t think there are many ten year olds who could have quoted you that line, but I could, thanks to my dad’s totally bizarre reading suggestions for me. I would probably defend “Prufrock” until my death. It’s been quoted to death, it’s trite at this point, and beloved mainly by pretentious folk who major in English and quote the line about coffee spoons to each other and smirk. Yeah, all of that’s true.
But that poem is beautiful nonetheless. I don’t think much about growing old, I don’t think much about the crisis of middle aged men, or of Edwardian England, but I cry when I read that poem because despite what some might see as its impenetrability, it lays out the tangled bed of emotions in the mind of a single individual and asks you if you’ve ever felt just this way.
To say that I love “Prufrock” is easy. I cannot much say that I love Eliot. “The Waste Land” was hard going and simply removed. I smiled at familiar lines, finally in their rightful context, and wondered at the allusions and metaphors but ultimately I finished the poem and said, “Well, that’s it then.” No crying or moment of instant recognition. It was simply an interesting and nice poem. I didn’t much care for the rather grotesque sexual imagery. I can deal with poems that portray female sexuality as something fearful and rather violent (I actually wrote one this year which I’ve still got mixed feelings about.) but the images in “The Waste Land” just made me feel disgusting. I haven’t read “The Hollow Man,” I haven’t read “Four Quartets.” I will eventually but I wasn’t going to rush to read them, until just a little while ago. I stumbled across a line from “Four Quartets.” I like poetry that lays things out for me. I think that poetry should strive for bareness, not opaqueness, I value simplicity over frills, and I’m a little too fond of clever word play (Please note this poem from McSweeney’s which I haven’t yet stopped loving.). I don’t think these are elements that can be said to characterize Eliot’s poetry. And yet. And yet.
“You are the music while the music lasts.“
I may have to get around to reading “Four Quartets” sooner than I had intended. I didn’t think he had it in him.
I’d take this one:
Flawed and imperfect, but starred with poetry.
It’s a Virginia Woolf quote; she used the phrase to describe an essay by Charles Lamb. It’s one of those phrases I hope to carry around with me, the way some people always remember their childhood home phone number.
I’m out for the weekend, back on Monday, rough draft of my creative writing midterm due on Monday. It’s not going to be a boring weekend, past that I can’t say. Do you ever have those weeks when you learn a word for the first time or hear a new story and then everywhere you turn, there’s someone using that word? There should be a name for that. I’ve heard this quotation in full or referenced four times in the past two weeks.
There is a story of a man who got the experience from laughing gas; whenever he was under its influence, he knew the secret of the universe, but when he came to, he had forgotten it. At last, with immense effort, he wrote down the secret before the vision had faded. When completely recovered, he rushed to see what he had written. It was “A smell of petroleum prevails throughout.”
For as long as I can, I’m going to post something everyday. This might be an entry with typical blog content, or it could be a poem I’m working on, or a picture, or a video, or a song, or really whatever I want.
But for as long as possible, I’m going to keep this up. If I fail it’ll probably be once I’m in England, but who knows. Perhaps my creativity has better legs than I think.
He attacked everything in life with a mix of extraordinary genius and naive incompetence, and it was often difficult to tell which was which.