Eliot

To be intolerant of another’s religion is toleration itself compared to being intolerant of another’s art.
Stevens

For a few weeks, Eliot was the bane of my existence. I dabbled in his poetry as a teen and appreciated the smooth flow of his words…the subtle hint of brilliancy. As a child admires the Smoky Mountains but cannot fathom creating them, so my eyes ran over Eliot’s lines without my presuming to attempt to imitate them.

In college my reunion with Eliot was far from nostalgic. I nursed an analytical temperament as a source of pride, and reading Eliot’s poems without having an idea of what they meant became increasingly irritating.

“I feel guilty,” I told Dean McDonald one day, “For not being smarter.”

I poured over The Wasteland with an unusual intensity, particularly intrigued by the vague references, the whisperings I did not fully understand.

Earth mixed with fire,
with water,
 ice.

Eliot had recreated the Greek elements of the earth…he had rebuilt the Smoky Mountains, and I could not. I stared sulkily at my book.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

“So how should I presume?

      There will be time

I have measured out my life

     Time to prepare

So how should I presume?”

I lifted my nose from my book toward Alexa’s voice as she analyzed a hermit crab she found on the beach.

“Why do hermit crabs crawl sideways?”

She asked, wrinkling her nose in newfound perplexion. My own nose returned, quite literally, to my book.

“I should have been a pair of ragged claws, scuttling across the floors of silent seas.”

“So that poets could use him as a literary symbol.” I muttered half-consciously.

Curse you, Eliot. Could you not lower yourself  to the level of normal humanity?
Or why could not I rise above it.

3 Comments

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3 responses to “Eliot

  1. I feel the same exact way! I read beautiful poetry and I just know that there has to be more to it than the lovely flow of words. Thanks Natalie, for capturing this brilliant moment!

  2. Timothy Lashley

    I rather liked Prufrock! The poem showed him wasting his life in indecision. Of course, my teacher had to do a bit of explaining for me to get it, but then I did. Then there is the Wasteland…hmmm yeah I see what you mean…

    • Hmm I always felt that his indecision was a manifestation of his feeling inadequate and socially awkward, and essentially self- centerred. “The Wasteland” was comparatively simple. Ha ha just kidding=)

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