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The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and other poems

by T. S. Eliot

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2038104,748 (4.22)17
A collection of poems composed by Nobel Prize-winning writer T.S. Eliot between 1909 and 1935.

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Such a beautiful poem ( )
  Saraiest | Sep 17, 2021 |
I enjoyed the bleak tone of the poem and the way images of domestic life are infused with a sense of dread. You can really feel the existential horror of life in the wake of the first world war. That war basically blackpilled an entire generation.
"Oh do not ask what it is, let us go and make our visit"
"Do I dare to eat a peach?"
I'm not a poetry person, but even as someone who doesn't like poems this one is pretty dope. ( )
  Jyvur_Entropy | Jan 11, 2021 |
I got to Eliot by way of Porter. I want to better understand the influences that were poured into Grief Is The Thing With Feathers. A couple Christmases ago, at a friend's mountain cottage, i found an old hardback of his mother's, The Complete Works of T. S. Eliot. A casual flip though impressed me by the range of voices and techniques he employed. And there among those varied voices and approaches one of them sounded like Crow.

Too daunting to go for his complete works, I decided to begin at the beginning. This is his first ever poetry collection, published about a year after moving to the UK from the US at around 28 years old.

It isn't bad. It is readable. And that Crow sound and style is there in Prufrock (if much less so in the other poems):

"The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes,
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep."

Absolutely fantastic. Do I idealise Grief too much? Perhaps. Here are my two resistances to Prufrock And:

First, Grief doesn't feel pretentious to me. You feel the weight of its cultural inheritance. You know Porter has incredible learning and has brought to bear his extended reading. His passion and position as someone dedicated to literature and working in publishing somehow shows. But it is consequential, not flamboyant. It just happens to be. He is not showing it off, he is putting it to use. His work stands so beautifully and strong alone even if you don't pick up on the thousand references to all the best that has come before. If Porter's excellent education was acquired through posh privilege or upwardly mobile merit it doesn't matter and it doesn't show. The work itself is all the merit we need and we don't need to interpret it through Porter's life or otherwise.

I don't have the same feeling with Eliot. Modernist or not, groundbreaking or not, Eliot is pretentious. That he mixes it all up with references to soot and chimenies and late night city lamposts and maybe even some drinking... doesn't remove the heavy weight of the constant not casual Greek and Italian and French thrown into the mix. We have references to Lucian and Hamlet and Lazarus and the Jew of Malta and Chopin and servants and Priapus and Rochefoucauld and Michelangelo... All that in just 33 pages - many of them blank. I. Am. Bored! The poems read so much like code and in jokes and in references so one happily goes along in good faith investigation and it turns out he studied at Harvard and only decamped for the UK because the aristocrat Bertrand Russell recruited him to study a doctorate under him at Oxford and fancied Eliot's fiancé. That is the story behind Mr. Apollinax, the poem based on Russell. The Weeping Girl, pardon me "La Figlia Che Piange" was written because he was on holiday in Italy and a friend sent him to see a monument of that name and he couldn't find it. How many commonfolk went to Italy in the 1910s? I mean, these are just poems talking in code about little moments among the upper crust. This kind of Oxbridge schoolboy saunter that flaunts their budding knowledge to one another to make them feel good about not being among the unwashed. Except Eliot was approaching his thirties and doing a doctorate. And this combines, too, with an American earnestness and direct simplicity that thinks these half-tricks are enough. Part pre-beatnick, part wannabe-made-it Oxbridge.

There is something less than pleasing about reading Eliot in 2020, caught so tight as we are in the vice of late capitalism's unending meta sizing growth into all spheres of life. We are voting for Trump. We are voting for Sanders. After Oxbridge Eliot worked in banking for a bit before moving to head up what would later be Faber and Faber publishing house. We are fed up of the comfortable self-satisfied "rational-scientific" intellectual - and modern - liberal elites that have brought us into this prison with promises of prosperity and freedom always around the corner.

He's not bad. I found some Crow. Aunt Helen made me laugh the first time I read it. But maybe the modern era that he inaugurated is over. Whatever he may have done that was new then is read now taken for granted as common. Maybe that era has left a modern sized wound still open and gushing and painful. Maybe Eliot is simply too recently passé to be yet brought back with a retro filter. Eliot is not the lost prior voice of the millenial generation.

Still, I might continue Crow-hunting in his later works and see if I discover something different. ( )
  GeorgeHunter | Sep 13, 2020 |
Read as preparation for reading and reviewing The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufock: a Modern Reimagining by Sarah Daltry. ( )
  evil_cyclist | Mar 16, 2020 |
This was a gloomy, depressing, bleak and confusing poem. I will confess to be "lost" with poetry. This was a stream of consciousness of a sad, unfulfilled, lonely and self effacing man. It is a famous work and the volume I had included some other material. I wish I could find poetry as moving as many say it is. ( )
  DonaldPowell | Feb 5, 2019 |
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Let us go then, you and I
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A collection of poems composed by Nobel Prize-winning writer T.S. Eliot between 1909 and 1935.

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