Sunday, June 4, 2017

How to Write a T. S. Eliot Poem

T. S. Eliot
(1888-1965)

The routine and regimented ways in which to write a T. S. Eliot poem in 10 easy steps are as follows, ahem:

1. Come upon a cute turn of phrase,
2. Pen a rambunctious title loosely related to said turn of phrase,
3. Thumb the pages of Dante and pluck out an epigraph (preferably in the original Italian),
4. Insert said epigraph beneath said title,
5. Write slapdash quatrains,
6. Insert said turn of phrase at a random place in said quatrains,
7. Run the occasional line of said quatrains onto the next line,
8. Allude to a Bible verse (preferably the Old Testament),
9. Add italics to random words, and
10. Tell short tales within the poem that have no connection to the others.

Eliot is said to have ushered in the modernist movement in poetry. That is to say he largely did away with rhyming and sentimentality employed by the Victorians. He painted a dying world in the relatively few poems he gave us. "The Waste Land" is considered his best--perhaps because it is his longest. "The Hollow Men," however, shines brightest with its Shakespearean and Heart of Darkness references. A number of songs have been written about Eliot's poems and the famous play Cats was based on his Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats.

"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" "Afternoons and Coffeespoons" Crash Test Dummies God Shuffled His Feet 1993
"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" "Creep" Radiohead Pablo Honey 1993
"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" “Peaches” The Presidents of the United States of America Presidents of the United States of America 1995
"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" “The Message” Grand Master Flash The Message 1982
"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" "Thick as a Brick" Jethro Tull Thick as a Brick 1972
Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats Cats Musical Andrew Lloyd Webber
"The Wasteland" "The First Day of Spring" Noah and the Whale
"The Wasteland" “Wasteland” Dan Bern Dan Bern 1993

Meh is how I would sum up the body of poetry Eliot left us. It certainly pails in scope and impact to the poems of Edgar Allan Poe. One has to wonder if he would be known at all without the litter of jellicle cat poems he penned, had more than nine lives on the West End and Broadway.

#tseliot #reviewoftseliot