Marcia Karp wrote:
> Any of us can only know what we know in the ways we know. I don't find
> it untrue or up to me to decided that only someone who has felt a given
> feeling or emotion has a chance of expressing it. All this is a given.
I'll take your "given." The truth of it could be debated in a philosophy
group but I agree with the point and accept it as a way to confine the
> Why is TWL any more personal than thousands of other lyric poems?
I didn't say that and I don't think I implied it either. I would say
that TWL is rather impersonal for a personal poem. You don't see Eliot
on the surface of the poem. And that means he did a pretty good job of
doing what he wrote about in his criticism.
> I often am moved to compassion by a poem, and independently by a
> writer's skill, bravery, willingness to have written it. I have
> admiration for many poets and their work. You answered my question as
> if I were saying there were no ways biography aids a reading.
My apologies. I wrote tossing out some thoughts for the list as a whole
instead of answering in a more personal manner. I hope I do a better
> I'm asking what are the ways, or how do they work, and since it is
> helpful to be specific, I'm asking these things in regard to TWL and
I'll like to skip the generalities here and get to a specific example
to save me from spending more time than I already do at a computer.
> What words, lines, passages change when you read in the light of your
> understanding of his life? When time has passed and Eliot becomes
> Anonymous, what will be lost?
An example from something that just came up: We have a troubled marriage
scene in Part II of TWL where the wife asks questions, the husband
thinks thoughts of the hyacinth garden and pearly eyes but does not
answer. On the "road to Emmaus" we can, with a personal reading" see an
interogating wife asking about this ghost, this person from the author's
past and wondering what the ghost, he or she, might be doing to the
marriage. Note that this is something that could be gotten from the text
alone but it is something that is easier to see knowing Eliot's biography.
> These are real questions; why brush me off with "do whatever you want."
Sorry, I didn't mean to. As I just said, I wrote back for an audience
of many instead of answering your questions more specifically. Still,
your statement of (or rather, paraphrase of me) "do whatever you want."
is not unlike one Eliot himself made. (I know that lots more can be
written on that but I leave this short and simple.)
> I don't believe the reader is "free to pick and choose any combination" of
> reading and still be respectful of the work, that is to exercise
> and admire what the poet has done.
But Eliot's poetry is not all that clear is it? Look at how many
interpretations have been written by well respected scholars over the
last eighty plus years. Are the authors of the ones you don't like
As for my "You are free to pick and choose any combination" I did not
intend that it be done randomly. I have found gems of thought among the
junk of many papers. That is, I might dismiss the premise of an essay
but still find something in it worth exploring further.
> Can you read Frost's "Mending Wall" as a criticism of bourgeois land
> owners and still maintain that you have respect for the poem and its
> creator? What in the poem lends itself to such a reading?
I know that some readings of poems just don't seem to fit in with what I
might picture the real meaning to be and that is why I wrote "still
others [readings] may seem to come from some place strange." Still there
might be something to them. What if I got that hypothetical Frost
reading of yours from a renown educator and published in a paper?
Respecting the author of the essay I might consider that he/she may have
more knowledge of Frost than I, perhaps maybe even have read letters to
socialist friends, and the author might have studied farm life in New
England and possibly have built a few rock walls even. Okay, that may
not be what Frost had in mind, but now I've got my old thoughts of what
the poem meant and a new collection too. I don't have to throw away
ideas from one or the other unless I write an essay myself. But I don't
really do that often. I do see a lot of these walls though and my
thoughts can drift from here to there and I actually might come away
from the real experience with a new thought of my own based on the
"idiotic" essay. It might not be a thought on poetry but it may be
useful to me in some other way.
What this might boil down to is art for life's sake, not for its own.
> I have no idea what publisher you are referring to.
Again, that was a generalized statement and parenthesized at that. I
rather not explain. I'll just have to do more writing and get myself in
deeper than I'm willing to go. And screw it up. And waste a half hour