The New York Times Magazine
Letter of Recommendation: 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock'
August 6, 2015
By Mark Levine
Mark Levine has written for the magazine since 2002. His new book of poems, ‘‘Travels of Marco,’’ will be published in 2016.
The last paragraph:
I lost myself in its winding passageways and felt momentarily reunited with my teenage self, transported into a world of frightening, delirious possibility. ‘‘Prufrock’’ could restore me to the primal necessities of poetry like nothing else. It wasn’t the same poem I discovered years earlier, nor the poem my students read, but with disarming specificity, ‘‘Prufrock’’ remained capable of speaking to an enduring desire for something larger than myself, made available through the shape-shifting powers of the imagination. ‘‘Why is the poem called a love song?’’ a student asked. It was a good question. I turned to the class. ‘‘Is Prufrock in love?’’ Long silence. Then a student spoke: ‘‘Yes,’’ she said. ‘‘In love with poetry.’’
A version of this article appears in print on August 9, 2015, on page MM20 of the Sunday Magazine with the headline: ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’.