“Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.”
-T. S. Eliot
More poetry, since, after all, this is the very end of “the cruelest month,” isn’t it?
Oh, and Thomas Stearns Eliot… I had planned to do one more post of a collection of a few of his verses or another poem or two, and then I got an email from a friend of mine, Lia, mentioning that she thought that Eliot was… and how shall I put this… interesting, to say the least. Actually, I believe the word she used was actually “bonkers,” but I think I get where she’s coming from.
To me, Eliot, is the epitome of what I want in a poet. Simple, but complex. Vague but truthful. High minded but communicating to us from the lowest depths. Sad and melancholy but happiest when translating that into words that transcend.
From Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” I give you a favorite verse:
- She turns and looks a moment in the glass,
- Hardly aware of her departed lover;
- Her brain allows one half-formed thought to pass:
- “Well now that’s done: and I’m glad it’s over.”
- When lovely woman stoops to folly and
- Paces about her room again, alone,
- She smoothes her hair with automatic hand,
- And puts a record on the gramophone.
But, I should add, that when it comes to poetry, I’m only a casual investor. My bag has always been prose, proper stories of fiction or non-fiction. Or poetry more lyrical, set to music, reverberating with sound. I’m just not the snobbiest when it comes to poetry, nor am I the most discerning or knowledgeable, I’m afraid. In fact, to me, there’s really only three kinds of poetry out there…
1. Simple stuff. Rhymes that are cutesy and intriguing, delighting the imagination and pleasing the easiest of senses. Perhaps grotesque or macabre, but in a way that sets the intellect aflame. This could be anything, really, but typically stuff you learn in school, from grade school to junior high to high school. We’re talking anything from Where The Sidewalk Ends to Edgar Allan Poe.
2. Stepping it up a bit. More adult. Rhymes, sometimes, but like I said before, deeper with truth. You hear the words with your ears and then they echo within, touching on something all too familiar. Can be a tad cute-sy, but also rewarding for a generation like ours with our hypertext annotations, the kind you’d read “Prufrock” or “The Waste Land” or “The Hollow Men” with at some point in your life. Obviously, this could include Eliot, but also poets as fanciful Federico García Lorca or Pablo Neruda, or as simple as Richard Brautigan. Hell, it can be as simple as Shakespeare or Shelley, even.
3. Everything else, but ascending. Some of it’s so deep and smart and amazing that I just don’t have the brain power to comprehend it, or I’m just not there. I’m sure you can suggest something for this category. The only downside to that is, well, if you can, then you’re probably an asshole. But you worked hard for it and I salute you.
But I admire the idea of the poet, the romantic nature of such a “profession.” It’s like an emotionaut, diving into the psyche, and trying to describe to the guarded observers what is found there. Sometimes poetry can be too childlike or too grandiose or just too overblown and pretentious, because that’s who it’s writers are. And, more often than not, that’s who the readers are too. What you look for in that sea of words is most likely exactly what you’re going to find.
And I shall leave you this month with one very last poem by T. S. Eliot, this one being “Conversation Galante,” which I hope you enjoy…
I observe: “Our sentimental friend the moon!
Or possibly (fantastic, I confess)
It may be Prester John’’s balloon
Or an old battered lantern hung aloft
To light poor travellers to their distress.”
She then: “How you digress!”
And I then: “Some one frames upon the keys
That exquisite nocturne, with which we explain
The night and moonshine; music which we seize
To body forth our own vacuity.”
She then: “Does this refer to me?”
“Oh no, it is I who am inane.”
“You, madam, are the eternal humorist
The eternal enemy of the absolute,
Giving our vagrant moods the slightest twist!
With your air indifferent and imperious
At a stroke our mad poetics to confute–”
And–“Are we then so serious?”