Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Eliot's The Waste Land: The Most Overrated Poem in the English Language

Eliot's poetry has found its place in the embalmed world of academia and with lovers of fatuously admired poetry.
T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land is the most overrated poem in the English language.

Thankfully, since most people don't give a damn about poetry, I think fewer people will be exposed to this fraud and his poem. Actually, that last sentence is sad (no, not just because of its clumsiness): As I posted earlier, Poetry is dead, and when you read poems like The Waste Land, it's kind of easy to see why Modernism became the punching bag for blaming the demise of poetry.

No one wants to pore through barely coherent language to find "symbols". It's bad enough even the most clear and direct of words are but shadows of things--why muck things up further? Well, some poems do make a mess of language, but they do it beautifully, or rather their total effect is beautiful. Take Galway Kinnel's poem, "The Bear". This poem, like most contemporary poetry, is fixed in a narrative, lacks meter, and is devoid of any proper rhyme or scheme. But this poem is about something yet it transcends  the knowable something.

Eliot's The Waste Land is little more than the feverish journal entries of a man. Read up on some criticism and you'll soon discover how much of this "poem" derives from automatic writing dumped into a notebook. And, boy, does the poem show it.

T.S. Eliot: total fraud of a man trying to pass as an Englishman and a poet.

Here's some automatic writing that I am going to pass off as a poem now (my natural poetic talent makes it hard for me to write total crap as you will see, though):

Stay with your bloated sun, today it speaks
a little less like honey on bread: so cloyingly sweet.
Have you seen the milkman, today?
Yes, let's pretend he's dead and owes us the money
we spent on lilacs and semi-dead roses.

4 comments:

  1. This poem made me get my only high school C due to my inability to memorize allusions.

    However, I think my teacher would have liked your automatic writing.

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  2. This poem is a perfect example of self-indulgent Academia revelling in pretentious nonsense that only feeds the ego. I had a professor that revered this poem as a masterpiece solely on the basis that it is difficult to read. Those of us in that class without a cult follower mentality, unwilling to drink the Kool-Aid, discussed the criteria for a masterpiece to be more than form but also content. The poem is not good.

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  3. Firstbreed I love the poem. I don't consider myself pretentious nor do I have cult follower mentality, I simply find great beauty and insight within the poem. I suppose the other point to make is that regardless of whether we like the poem or not, no one one can deny its influence; although depending on your viewpoint that may be a good or bad thing!

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  4. Stay with your bloated sun, today it speaks
    a little less like honey on bread: so cloyingly sweet.
    Have you seen the milkman, today?
    Yes, let's pretend he's dead and owes us the money
    we spent on lilacs and semi-dead roses.


    Professor HiBrow says: This is a genius of a poem, written in the highest levels of verse with numerous classical references.

    At once, the reader is brought into the Ptolemaic world where a sun [in this case bloated with frailty and ennui] revolves around the earth, and yet in that world, a consuming sweetness exists. The poet cleverly uses sweetness as a synecdoche for a sort of cloying compassion and follows with reference to Macbeth, about the milk of kindness. Specifically when Lady Macbeth says: "Yet do I fear thy nature, It is too full o' th' milk of human kindness."

    Then the poet masterfully goes deeper into the human psyche and continues paralleling Lady Macbeth's ambiguity toward death. Does she wish the milkman, who is an obvious reference to King Duncan, dead or only to pretend that he is dead?

    The last stanza poses a difficult philosophic question and continues the wavering between the duality of life and death, so common in the works of Dante and Milton. Should the emphasis be on the lilacs, which are classically considered a harbinger of spring and therefore of life, or is it on the semi-dead roses, an allusion again to the Ptolemaic world of a bloated sun which too, is unwell.

    The overall theme is a wonderfully ironic interpretation of kindness, compassion, frailty and death, and leads one to think of the famous Shakespearean quote: "A [semi-dead] rose by any other name would smell as [cloyingly] sweet."

    Note to reader: For more information, please reference Professor's HiBrow's controversial Oxford dissertation: Extraordinary Blogspot poetry, who needs the classics?

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