Thanks for reviving in my mind the idea that poetry can be enjoyed
even before it is understood. I located the exact quotation -- it is :
"Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood." I came
upon a fine elucidation of this idea at the following link -- and
I'm taking the liberty to reproduce it here.
Apropos how poetry affects us, I greatly appreciate two observations
made by Peter -- the need to read between the lines, what he later
called the mystery of the spaces -- and the need to take into account
the auditory imagination. 
That line of Eliot's comes from his long essay on Dante in which he admits to have been "passionately fond of certain French poetry long before I could have translated two verses of it correctly" and that obtaining "an immense amount of knowledge" about Dante before reading him "is positively undesirable". So Ford's contention that "Eliot and Stevens shivered with distaste at the idea of writing poetry that was intelligible to the masses" is a snotty misrepresentation of the meaning of difficulty. Their poetry might puzzle its explicators but it still gives me, a mere reader, immense reading pleasure. Maybe, I think now after reading the review, it's because their poetry contains (and uncontains) that "bursting unity of opposites". One has to read the words - leap aboard the roller coaster of language - to experience those complexities in all their reality. There are few poets who do this. So why are we being constantly warned off?
The idea that something must be fully comprehended before it can be appreciated flies in the face of one of art's primary functions--to inspire wonder. I believe that anyone could pick up work by "Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, Hart Crane, William Carlos Williams, Gertrude Stein, and of Eliot himself" and get something out of it. The problem is that most are either too lazy or scared to try...or share this misapprehension of what "difficulty" means.

Diana Manister <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Peter, don't you think music is pure affect? It's pre-verbal communication, like a baby's cry. A genius like Eliot can use the non-verbal auditory element of poetry to communicate his meaning before the words are understood. He wrote somewhere that a poem can be understood before the verbal meaning is deciphered -- I forget where but I'm sure you know it. Best, Diana
What role the auditory imagination?
----- Original Message -----
From: [log in to unmask] href="mailto:[log in to unmask]">Diana Manister
To: [log in to unmask] href="mailto:[log in to unmask]">[log in to unmask]
Sent: Tuesday, February 13, 2007 10:10 AM
Subject: Re: The Emotion of Art

Dear CR:
Although I know thoughts and feelings are different, I wonder if free associations one has to words, images and ideas in a poem would be considered to be thoughts or feelings. For example, the Ionian white and gold in the St. Magnus Martyr passage in TWL I associated with the splendour TSE saw in the Western tradition and, since he highlighted that image in a Christian church, I thought or felt he was connecting the two, as if Western secular tradition had an almost sacred glory for him. Now, was I thinking or feeling in making those associations? I do not know! LOL Diana

From:  cr mittal <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:  "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
To:  [log in to unmask]
Subject:  Re: The Emotion of Art
Date:  Mon, 12 Feb 2007 18:31:54 -0800

In continuation...
That the emotion of art is complex is borne out by the opening lines
of The Waste Land :
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire...
In the Portrait of a Lady, the lady talks of "these April sunsets,
that somehow recall / My buried life" even as the "lilacs" of her
desire bloom again.
Here, in TWL, the burial of the (spiritually) dead leads to the breeding
of "lilacs", which brings back the agony of insatiable desire.
In Whispers of Immortality, Webster, in grappling with lust, sees
through the nature of carnal desire. It tightens its grip over human
thoughts, lingers beyond death, staring from the sockets of dead
person's eyes. It would, doubtless, sprout again like the "Daffodil
And this is
emotion on one side of the scale -- of the "torment / Of
love unsatisfied" or the "greater torment / Of love satisfied"
[Ash-Wednesday]. An equal intensity operates on the other side
of the scale if the anguish is not carnal but spiritual. But I'll leave
that here.
Incidentally, you would have taken note of the fact since Eliot's
entire poetic ouvre forms one work, an image used in one poem
often gets amplified in another. 
As for the secret of the emotion's intensity -- and there are as many
shades to it as the emotions that find expression in his poetry -- it lies
in the emotion's reinforcement by the thought that impels it. 
The intensity of their fusion is remarkable too.
And there is not a word of Eliot's poetry that is not permeated with
this fusion of thought and feeling -- and a corresponding intensity.
To get at Eliot's thought, or to experience the intensity of
complex emotion, the first pre-requisite is that his poetic utterance
be not taken merely literally, that it should be viewed in the
metaphoric context that enriches and multiplies its complexity.
I hope we shall have many more occasions to view the beauty,
the mystery, and the intensity of Eliot's poetry -- and unravel its rich
complexity. To quote the poet,  "We shall not cease from exploration..."

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