I love your line about reading them less as puzzles because that is also what I have felt for a long time. I think the effect of so much source hunting in the 1950s and 60s was mixed: it did illuminate some materials, but it also meant one assumed the "meaning" of the poem was never about anything in the poem but only an idea cleverly masked. When I said I was trained in a certain way, that must have been part of what you initially read in my books, but I now care much more, as you do, for the poems as experiences.
I think you would enjoy the reviews collected by Jewel. Early responses were not the kind of thing you mean about puzzles. I think, for example, that Cleanth Brooks made a fascinating puzzle of TWL, but the lines of the poem itself have an intensity that does not come from Weston or the grail. The images of Lil or the anguished couple or the typist are images of literal despair I think.
>>> Richard Seddon <[log in to unmask]> 03/27/08 11:52 PM >>>
The Waste Land and, much later, The Cantos were my introduction to poetry
and to classical literature in general. Marcia Karp, Jewel Brooker and
yourself were my first instructors. As I progressed to The Cantos my
mentors became Hugh Witemeyer and Leon Surette.
My way of reading TWL has changed dramatically from simply trying to make
sense of the poem to today's enjoyment of the poem's words, rhythms and the
flashing images (little i) that it creates in my mind without need for
deeper understanding. Of course I am still titillated with the background
of the various scenes and what those scenes mean but today that doesn't seem
as important to this non-professional as it once did. I still read TWL
regularly and less often the others. "Cousin Nancy" to this day is my
favorite of the short works. But, I read them less as puzzles and more for
the sheer enjoyment of how TSE put the words together.
Perhaps I have learned to read and enjoy Poetry in the 10 years or so that I
have been at it. If so that is a good thing!