I think one kind of poetry may be a sublimation of oneself. But poetry is
far bigger and grander than any one definition. Eliot's own "impersonal"
theory of poetry does not account for what he wrote himself, and I think of
contemporary poets whose personal experience is central in far more
complex and interesting ways than "confessional" or simply personal. I
think poetry cannot be limited by theories.
Date sent: Tue, 13 May 2003 05:44:08 -0700
Send reply to: "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
From: Vishvesh Obla <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: An amateur Eliot enthusiast's wild musing
To: [log in to unmask]
I appreciate your sincere wish to understand
Literature. You have raised a couple of issues that
interest me since they seem to me to reflect a common
pattern of one's understanding of Literature.
“What is poetry, if not something for aiding us in
forming our own sort of outlook -- something to help
us make sense of an essentially senseless
Well, poetry could be anything for anyone, but I guess
it primarily is a cultural expression. It fulfils its
purpose only in relation to the culture that made it
possible. Eliot relates this ‘culture’ aspect to what
he calls as the European ‘tradition’ from which the
English literary tradition is derived. To read poetry
is to live culturally. One doesn’t read poetry to
‘make sense of an essentially senseless environment’
nor is one a poet when he offers aids to make ‘sense’
of a social environment. When one does that, what is
offered is an ‘idea’, to quote a Lawrentian term, an
idea that nevertheless may have truth behind it, but a
truth that has only a ‘personal’ force and not the
essential poetic force. If Virginia Woolf has to be
related to her feministic ideas for a better
understanding, then I would seriously doubt her value
as a great novelist. Tolstoy is so much an artist in
‘Anna Karenina’ than his ‘Resurrection’, for the
creative force behind the former is not governed by
any ‘ideas’, while in the latter they are the driving
force and hence stand in his way of his wholesome
‘artistic’ conception of life. Please don’t mistake
me as an advocate of the stupid ‘art for art’s sake’
slogan. I think Life as related by art has a much
more permanent value than when it is related to an
One is a poet when one is able to sublimate one’s
personal experiences into what poetry essentially
stands for. In such a case, the associated details
become important only when one wants to magnify (or
reduce) a poem.
--- Dave Martin <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> I appreciate the sentiment.
> All the same, I like to "know my sources". I have
> never been one to
> fully subscribe to or fully reject the
> post-modernist arguments about
> author's intent, that is, its essential irrelevance.
> Maybe I am reading
> into your note (ha!) but I hear a little of this
> spirit in your reply.
> Whether or not Eliot was gay does not impact my
> opinion of him as a
> great poet. It could, however, help to inform my
> understanding of his
> work and his general outlook on life. What is
> poetry, if not something
> for aiding us in forming our own sort of outlook --
> something to help us
> make sense of an essentially senseless environment?
> I may be mistaken,
> but it was my understanding that this was the great
> pursuit of the
> so-called 'Modernists', amongst which Eliot is
> generally considered a
> great standard bearer... I think, for example, there
> are a lot of folks
> out there that would think it silly for one to
> ignore the feminist/gay
> slant to Woolf's writing, even if you were to argue
> that she never wrote
> such themes into her work 'with intent'.
> Group: please advise!
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Vishvesh Obla [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
> Sent: Monday, May 12, 2003 7:33 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: An amateur Eliot enthusiast's wild
> "I read in a New Yorker article (by Louis Menand)
> fall that a group of scholars -- on somewhat thin
> evidence -- believe that Eliot was gay and had a
> while in Paris: Jean Verdenal..."
> 'Eliot was gay; shakespheare was gay; Henry James
> impotent; Lawrence suffered from Oedipus complex' :
> when I read academic discussions of great writers, I
> feel totally at a loss when someone drags in a
> personal issue as the above even when they could be
> real. I remember Eliot himself quoting somewhere on
> some earlier critics of Shakepheare that they were
> much closer to his dramatic art than much of the
> critics since they could focus at the essential
> of his works without getting entangled in the
> 'academism' which seems to be the malady of the
> I would appreciate if anyone here attempts to look
> a poem for what it is and not for the innumerable
> details which, I feel, make a poem anything but a
> "Trust the tale, not the artist..."
> --- "David B. Martin 00"
> <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> > RE: Prufrock...
> > Why is the fog/smoke yellow? Mustard gas? I read
> > a New Yorker article (by Louis Menand) last fall
> > that a group of scholars -- on somewhat thin
> > evidence -- believe that Eliot was gay and had a
> > lover while in Paris: Jean Verdenal. The Prufrock
> > collection was apparently dedicated to Verdenal in
> > 1917, after his death at Gallipoli. According to
> > these scholars, Eliot thought he had died of
> > drowning. Other scholars have read Verdenal into
> > Phoeban sailor of _The Waste Land_. But it seems
> > to me that the publish date, 1922, of The Waste
> > would have been far too late to nurse a wounded
> > heart in public, published form -- am I naive in
> > thinkin this? I have to wonder if all the water
> > imagery, and the yellow smoke, and the eternal
> > Footman, etc were not all musings and memorials to
> > the death of his friend and/or lover Jean.
> > Prufrock's publish date of 1917 would seem to
> > support my private little theory, but this
> > website's tim!
> > eline claims a completion date in 1912. Did he
> > spend the five year balance completing the
> > poems, refining the eponymous poem, or just
> > with other pursuits? Besides, do we have hard
> > evidence that he did not completely rewrite the
> > in 1917 anyways? Any Eliot scholars out there
> > to respond?
> > D
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