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Listers,
      I'm reading with enjoyment the  discussion of meaning in TWL. Many of 
the points made seem to have validity and  insight and the give and take is 
interesting. Great poetry is  timeless. To many readers of poetry TWL is as 
relevant today  and to today as it was when Eliot wrote it. The "waste land" of 
post WWI  England and Europe is, to some readers, here with us now in post 9/11 
America.  The meaning of the poem is, to a significant extent, in the mind of 
the reader.  This keeps the poem always fresh and alive. 
       To put this  in perspective, below are discussions of "the meaning of 
poetry"  excerpted from essays by T. S. Eliot and Wallace Stevens:
      
 
From: "The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism" by T. S. Eliot
 
".....There are two reasons why the writer of poetry must not be thought to  
have any great advantage. One is that a discussion of poetry such as this 
takes  us far outside the limits within which a poet may speak with authority; the 
 other is that the poet does many things upon instinct, for which he can give 
no  better account than anybody else. A poet can try, of course, to give an 
honest  report of the way in which he himself writes: the result may, if he is 
a good  observer, be illuminating. And in one sense, but a very limited one, 
he knows  better what his poems 'mean' than can anyone else; he may know the 
history of  their composition, the material which has gone in and come out in an 
 unrecognizable form, and he knows what he was trying to do and what he was  
meaning to mean. But what a poem means is as much what it means to others as  
what it means to the author; and indeed, in the course of time a poet may 
become  merely a reader in respect to his own works, forgetting his original 
meaning --  or, without forgetting, merely changing. ...."
 
 
From:  "A Comment on Meaning in Poetry" by Wallace Stevens
 
      "Things that have their origin in the  imagination or in the emotions 
(poems) very often have meanings that differ in  nature from the meanings of 
things that have their origin in reason. They have  imaginative or emotional 
meanings, not rational meanings, and they communicate  these meanings to people 
who are susceptible to imaginative or emotional  meanings. They may communicate 
nothing at all to people who are open only to  rational meanings. In short, 
things that have their origin in the imagination or  in the emotions very often 
take on a form that is ambiguous or  uncertain.  It is not possible to attach 
a single, rational meaning to  such things without destroying the imaginative 
or emotional ambiguity or  uncertainty that is inherent in them and that is 
why poets do not like to  explain. That the meanings given by others are 
sometimes meanings not intended  by the poet or that were never present in his mind 
does not impair them as  meanings....."
 
Regards,
Barnwell




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