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TSE  February 2003

TSE February 2003

Subject:

Re: Poems as 150 steps?

From:

[log in to unmask]

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Tue, 18 Feb 2003 13:52:48 EST

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (48 lines)

In a message dated 2/18/03 12:58:45 PM EST, [log in to unmask] writes:

> I agree that the 150 steps analogy says little about the poem, but I also
> wonder, Steve, about the assumption that a poem is a structure always
> consciously contrived for very conscious purposes. I don't think most
> poets describe what they do that way, and certainly Eliot suggested very
> different processes in many places, not just the "rhythmic grumbling"
> comment. I think very often the words emerge or voices speak and only
> afterward does the poet find some form or edit what has been discovered.

It's an interesting discussion.

While I certainly believe poets put together images for all sorts of reasons,
I think, in the end, there actually ARE reasons. If you look at the
back-and-forth editing of TWL by Eliot and Pound (and look in the LETTERS to
see how they discussed individual words), and also look at the editing of
some of the 4Q passages between Eliot and John Hayward (again, discussing
specific words), I just don't see that Eliot's works were put together
without great attention to detail. He may not have planned it all out from
day 1, but upon re-reading it, he edited out words and punctuation that
didn't work.

Just look at the TWL editing. He's got comments to Pound like "I'll used
'closed car' -- I've already use 'taxi' and I can't use 'taxi' more than
once". In other words, he's thinking about every word, every image. What I'm
trying to say is that while the whole poem may not be planned out in gory
detail before any of it is committed to paper, I think that the final version
(that the readers get to see) IS gone over in minute detail. So I'm agreeing
with you that it may be only 'afterwards" that "it all fits", but, in the
end, it all fits.

Put another way, Nancy, do you believe in "close reading"? The way I
understand "close reading" is that the reader looks at and questions every
detail in the text, from images to punctuation to meter to rhyme scheme, etc,
etc, etc, all for the purpose of appreciating the artistry and understanding
meaning. If the final work was not carefully constructed, "close reading"
would be a pointless exercise since the poem is not that carefully made.

Personally, I think close reading of TSE is the only way to go. So if he
says, "Rachael nee Rabinovich" we shouldn't just say "some kind of
Anti-Semitic slur". We should say things like: "Rabinovich" -- "Rabbi's
daughter", why is that there? And "Rachael nee Rabinovich" -- Gee, I don't
know Rachael's married name, only her maiden name. Why is he doing THAT? What
IS her married name?

Anyway, that's how I approach poetry in general and TSE in particular.

-- Steve --

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