TLDR – Eliot (and poetry in general) and modern music – discuss
I like the idea of T.S. Eliot. But I don’t like his poems much. They don’t ‘make sense’. I start off reading a phrase, a line with intent to draw meaning out, but frankly it’s a struggle. Thrown at school into Ash Wednesday, (what feels like the deep end of the pool of Eliot’s poetry), was almost enough to put me off completely. I mean:
Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the agèd eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?
A quote from Wikipedia “In the first section, Eliot introduces the idea of renunciation with a quote from Cavalcanti, in which the poet expresses his devotion to his lady as death approaches. Dante Gabriel Rossetti translated it under the title Ballata, Written in Exile at Sarzana, and rendered the first line as “Because I do not hope to return”
What the fuck?
What better way to signal – this poem is not for you? This is for the well-read elite to absorb and enjoy the plentiful allusions as a whisky connoisseur appreciates the scent, the nose, the flavour, the taste and the afterglow of a decades-old dram.
So, why do I like the idea of T.S. Eliot? Because I’m an old goth, and Andrew Eldritch used to throw quotes from Eliot into his song lyrics (Marian, Valentine, Amphetamine Logic, Floorshow) – I can show his workings in the comments, if you are interested. It’s kind of like a form of sampling – analogue html links to sources, to ideas, to a palette of meaning that acts as backdrop to glitterbeat Suicide motoric rock’n’roll clichés.
Is that’s what old backward Toilets was doing? He littered his poems with Latin and Greek quotes – there must have been a point to that. Apparently, he also quoted operas and folk songs, and all sorts of cultural references and shit that would have made those in the know nod sagely and say “I see what you are doing there, Tommy”. What larks! for the cognoscenti, like a secret society of Eco Foucaultists drawing unintended meanings from the juxtaposition of judderingly different poetic scenes?
I think Tee-Ess had better first lines than Ash Wednesday:
* April is the cruellest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.
* Let us go then, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky like a patient etherized upon a table;
* Time present and time past are both perhaps present in time future, and time future contained in time past. If all time is eternally present, all time is unredeemable.
Now that’s more the sort of Ramones kick off into a 2 minute epic I want. Punchy image or concept to reflect on before being hit by chats about Renaissance painters, birds going round lotus pools in a garden, or coffee in the Hofgarten. Tessie, you are taking the piss, but in a fun, fuck-you way.
So, the title. Did you know Mistah Eliot was the first person to put the word “bullshit” into recorded written form? Here’s his delightful piece of misogyny.
Lots of scrawl – what’s my call? I suppose I’m ATM for wiser words than mine on Eliot and rock’n’roll, and more generally on poetry and modern culture. The linked article gives a few breadcrumbs to other musicians who rode on Eliot’s coattails beyond the Sisters.
What’s your take on Eliot? Although it might whimper out with a couple of comments and a YT clip, I’m hoping for more bang for this ageing buck – and please, no Lloyd Weber…