Print

Print


Nancy,

You and I it appears think of "making" differently. In my way of 
thinking about it, it is not possible for us to "know a great deal more 
about it than Lewis did" -- because Lewis had the poem. We might learn 
more about the background to its composition, but either the "making" is 
accessible through the poem itself, ie it is a successful poem, or it 
isn't.  And the degree to which it is or isn't, or a comprehending 
rendering of its registry as a poem, what it does as a poem, also does 
not depend on ever expanding background data.

I know what the usual objections to this are, and I know where they go 
off track. But communicating that I'm not so good at, because really, to 
understand what I'm trying to get at you 'd have to, as Eliot once said, 
believe it first. Perhaps "see it first" or "experience it first" would 
be less objectionable ways of putting it. The long and short of it is, 
you have to work out not what the poem meant for Eliot -- he gave you 
all you need to know when he published it -- but what it means for you, 
Nancy Gish, for your existence as a human being, i.e. you have to 
participate, really participate with your whole being, in the creative 
act that is the making of the poem. It can't just be Eliot's life on the 
line, it has to be yours, too. Always referring it back to Eliot only 
guarantees that the creative act will never be availed to a reader, thus 
the whole purpose of having the poem in the first place is defeated.

As I said, I'm not particularly skilled at presenting this. I offered 
the Lewis piece really just because Eliot in it is so un-Prufrock like, 
I hoped it might be a wake-up call that shakes someone off that dead-end 
track.

Ken A



On 10/23/2015 12:49 PM, Nancy Gish wrote:
> I am unable to see here what the "meaning" of the poem ostensibly is. 
> But if it is about the "making," we know a great deal more than Lewis 
> did (though the excerpt below says nothing about the "making" of 
> "Prufrock."  In a fascinating seminar led by Cassandra Laity at the 
> TSE Society, a lot of new information appeared. In my own case, I was 
> focused on the writing of "Prufrock's Pervigilium," which was inserted 
> in the Notebook and then removed (See IMH). It offers a quite 
> disturbing and very different voice. But it is part of what was very 
> much in the "making."
> What, for example, is presumed to be the meaning that provides an 
> absolute significance to "grow old" as literal?
> Or did I miss something?
> Nancy
>
> >>> Ken Armstrong 10/23/15 12:30 PM >>>
> Some years ago, when my wife's father was stopped going the wrong way 
> on a one way street in this small town, the officer, well known to 
> Red, said, "Red, don't you know this is a one way street?" "But Rod," 
> said Red, "I'm only going one way."
>
> Red, of course, knew he was making a joke with the law.  Happily he 
> was let off with a warning. Carrol, on the other hand, wants us to 
> believe that a one way street really is a two way street. Well, okay, 
> you pays your money and you makes your choices. But what you choose 
> doesn't determine the nature of the street, only the approach you 
> bring to it.
>
> I don't see any new questions or pressing observations in his post, 
> and all in all don't believe my certainty exceeds anything Carrol 
> always has on display. To the degree that "Prufrock" is a successful 
> poem, it's meaning inheres in its making, which, again, would have 
> been what Pound so enthusiastically pounced on.
>
> Consider Wyndham Lewis' account of meeting TSE:
>
> " As I entered the room I discovered an agreeable stranger parked up 
> one of the sides of the triangle. He softly growled at me, as we shook 
> hands. American. A graceful neck, I noted, with what elsewhere I have 
> described as 'a Gioconda smile.' Though not feminine -- besides being 
> physically large his personality visibly moved within the male pale -- 
> there /were/ dimples in the warm dark skin; undoubtedly he used his 
> eyes a little like a Leonardo. He was a very attractive fellow 
> then....I liked him, though I may say not at all connecting him with 
> texts Ezra had shown me about some fictional character dreadfully 
> troubled with old age, in which the lines....'I am growing 
> old....'.....I was unable to make head or tail of.
>
> Ezra now lay flung back in typical posture of aggressive ease... 
> However, he kept steadily beneath his quizzical but self-satisfied 
> observation his latest prize, or discovery -- the author of 
> /Prufrock/. The new collector's piece went on smiling and growling out 
> melodiously his apt and bright answers to promptings from the proud 
> figure of his exhausted captor."
>
> After this description of a most un-Prufrockian like character, Lewis 
> stumbles in the same place Carrol does, but only partly for the same 
> reason: he can't make sense of the meaning of the "growing old" line 
> for Prufrock, whereas Carrol's attention is in another dimensionaaaaa, 
> trying to make it work for Eliot. The answer lies in how Prufrock's 
> actions and alarms make him what he is and bring him to an end /meant 
> to be perceived/ as his fall, but moreover, in the first place, meant 
> to be perceived by the structure and technique and signs in the poem. 
> I think the telling phrase used to be "follow the lines of force."
>
> Ken A
>
> PS I am impressed by Carrol's evident respect for "Prufrock." In a 
> post from him I stumbled upon by virtue of my email client deciding to 
> open to posts from 2009, he noted that in the long run Eliot would be 
> largely forgotten by future generations with only two poems, in a 
> minor way, meeting the test of time. No doubt "Prufrock" is one of 
> them. I suppose it is only a matter of time until this projection 
> comes to pass, and we will all be on the Marianne Moore list, 
> discussing as per Carrol those much richer and more powerful poems.