I think whatever ability is involved in reading poems must have
something to do with reading them and studying them over time. As I
have been doing that for decades and just published my third book on
Eliot (this one a co-edition, the others authored), I suppose I have the
experience at least as much as others. Whatever you mean by your
"snobbery" is, unfortunately, more than a little unfounded.
I have not dealt with Eliot's perversity or lack of it. I described
what was in the poem. I do not write biography--I just read it--so I do
not publish views on Eliot himself. I have never said Eliot himself is
either mad or perverted: I SAID the poem represents that. So does one
of Browning's monologues. So do many Elizabethan plays. So do
Dostoevsky's novels. The Karamozovs are depraved and "hysterical."
This is not the same as saying Dostoevsky was. It is not abuse of Eliot
to point out that a poem about strangling a woman is a poem about
strangling a woman. This is not complicated.
But as a matter of principle (and fact) some authors have been mad or
perverse. DeSade was probably both. No doubt a list could be made up.
That is a very different issue.
There is nothing whatever to infer about me from my statement about the
Elizabethans since I only stated well-known historical fact. They did
those things. That's all.
I am still curious about what you seem to think constitutes a "poem" but
has nothing to do with whatever the words of the poem say. In his
Middleton essay, Eliot praises it precisely because its horror is real.
"In reading The Changeling we may think, till almost the end of the
play, that we have been concerned merely with a fantastic Elizabethan
morality, and then discover that we are looking on at a dispassionate
exposure of fundamental passions of any time and any place." He
discusses these passions and the tragedy of "habituation to sin." He
seems to have no notion that the play is somehow an essence of drama
that is not "about" a woman who becomes "moral by being damned." He
seems quite focused, in fact, on the words and events that are in the
If you cannot talk with me, I guess you cannot. But that is not a
reason to talk about me.
>>> [log in to unmask] 04/04/05 9:22 AM >>>
The old habit got on me unawares ! Nancy, henceforth
it will be...
I don't have an answer for your question as to whether
I had alone acquired the "special" ability of
identifying the 'essential' experience. But I believe
it is a necessary element in understanding and judging
poetry and that the great critics can facilitate
towards such a maturity, if I may call it so. Call it
snobbery if you want to, for you are 'entitled' to
your 'opinion'. But don't say that I am alone in it.
For, it would only amount to saying something as
absurd as Eliot is a madman and a pervert and so there
is no need to read and accept what he has said !
'If you will not discuss the poetry, please do not
discuss me as if you were in a position to judge my
ability to read.'
I pick on 'you' since you have been hurling a lot of
what seems to me as abuse on a great poet. My
question remains this : how can I consider such
accusations valid if I see something entirely
unconvincing to me as to the person who has been
making it. You say that I continue to state that you
look at a poem as an 'idea'. What can I infer when
you make further and further statements as:
"The Elizabethans did, indeed, represent a great deal
of perversity. They also engaged in burning people
alive, drawing and quartering, political murder,
chopping off the heads of wives--you know--not nice."
How can I discuss poetry in your lines if you by your
own words seem to me to be associating with such
issues that are not primary to the 'poem'? As a crude
analogy, I am reminded of someone making a note
expressing his wonder as to how a poet as Keats would
never have bothered to have alluded to any social
criticism in a troubled time, when a contemporary as
Shelley was brimming with fire and so caustic against
the establishment. See, there is a connection here,
willy-nilly you accept it or not.
I did try to discuss the poetry by drawing an analogy
to 'The Changeling', but since I do not have the text,
I cannot do it now. I can see Eliot drawing his
inspiration in this poem from Middleton whom he
admired so much. If I had his essay on Middleton and
the text of 'The Changeling' I would be gladly ready
to do a sort of exercise here, which I am sure would
be fruitful for me, and surely not for an argument's
--- Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Dear Vishvesh,
> Please do not call me "Ms. Nancy." I do not call
> you "Mr. Vishvesh."
> And please stop repeating that I am only interested
> in a poem as "idea."
> This is not true, as I keep pointing out, yet you
> continue to state it
> as if it were a fact.
> Also, One "may" see anything one wants in a poem
> (it's not illegal or
> immoral), but that does not mean it is in the poem.
> Am I to assume that
> YOU, for example, have acquired this ability to
> "identify the essential
> experience that makes it into a unique
> expression"--whatever that
> is--but I have not, despite decades of reading and
> teaching it? How did
> you achieve this, and how are we to know that you
> have it but others do
> And if you have, why are we all wasting time in
> discussion on this list?
> Why do you not simply send us all the truths of
> "essential experience"
> and we can close down?
> I am hardly alone in finding this poem
> perverse--read almost any
> discussion of it. And I offer again to define
> "perverse" if you like
> and connect it to self-flagellation in a sexual
> situation, loving
> corpses, and strangling lovers. It is not a long
> stretch. The
> Elizabethans did, indeed, represent a great deal of
> perversity. They
> also engaged in burning people alive, drawing and
> quartering, political
> murder, chopping off the heads of wives--you
> know--not nice.
> If you will not discuss the poetry, please do not
> discuss me as if you
> were in a position to judge my ability to read.
> And my name is Nancy.
> >>> [log in to unmask] 04/03/05 11:41 AM >>>
> One may see anything one wants to when one reads a
> poem, for a poem is a complex organization of
> experiences. But what one acquires in one's constant
> reading of poetry is to identify the essential
> experience that makes it into a unique expression.
> I wasn't surprised that Ms.Nancy would find this
> 'perverse', for I have observed that she seems to be
> more interested in what a poem could mean as an
> than as an 'experience'. But I was wondering if
> else would make a reply before I made one and I am
> glad Debra did, and a good one at that. If one
> considered this work perverse most of Elizabethan
> poetry may itself become perverse, for this work
> strong influence of Elizabethan poetry (I am struck
> the parallels to 'The Changeling', particularly as
> associated with the character of DeFlores. I don't
> have the text to quote any lines). I was even
> wondering why Eliot didn't compose it as a sonnet
> it has all the qualities that make the sonnets of
> Shakespeare : the precision, the feeling, and the
> Yahoo! Messenger
> Show us what our next emoticon should look like.
> Join the fun.
Do you Yahoo!?
Yahoo! Mail - Find what you need with new enhanced search.