Dear Rick and Marcia,
I only used biography as an example, not the only reason to change one's
readings. For example, many if not most early readers of TWL read it as
based in Jessie Weston. So when I first studied it I was very
influenced by that and "found" evidence of fertility rituals throughout.
But actually there are almost none until section V, and we now know
that a great deal of the lines and sections of the poem were written
before Weston's book. In one sense that could be called biography, but
in another it is also about the relations of two texts. And it also is
affected by "another reader's impression" in the sense that I took on
impressions from early readers but altered them on the basis of later
The most important other reader for me was actually X. J. Kennedy with
whom I first studied the poem. He was a wonderful reader and "[did] the
[poem] in different voices." I still remember "O O O O that
Shakespeherian Rag" in jazz rhythm. All that wonderful rhythm and sound
seems to have saved me from reading it as an intellectual's crossword
puzzle even when I had to study endless close readings of sources--which
also were part of what I retain.
But I also have had very different reactions to his representations of
women and Jews and minorities at various times; I can no longer simply
not include those as part of what affects me.
So my question was about ways of responding. The poems, at least for
me, keep changing.
I am not sure, Rick, what you mean by the "worded meaning" that does not
change much since it must include, for example, the fact that Marie is
not just a random Lithuanian but a specific person who was related to
the Austrian Empress and whom Eliot actually met. Or that he wrote down
verbatim what she did actually say. That ties the passage to Eliot in
Germany just before the War broke out and, it seems, alters any meaning.
>>> Richard Seddon <[log in to unmask]> 05/29/07 11:10 AM >>>
Reading a poem is multi-tasking to me
There is the poem and the enjoyment I get from the rhythms and the
the words. This doesn't change with knowledge.
When I finish a poem I am left with an overall impression, call it an
unworded understanding, a feeling about the poem. This is unchanged
knowledge of the poet's life or circumstances. It is changed by
of another reader's impression.
There is the a worded meaning of what I understand from a poem. That
changes with additional readings and with insight from others readings.
changes little from my understanding better the details of a poet's life
Then there is the detail in the poem. Who was Marie? Why the other
languages? What about the Tarot pack? Etc, etc, etc. This is of
greatly affected by background knowledge of the poet.
I enjoy good poetry for the richness that good poetry brings to each of
Portales, New Mexico