Taka's Reviews > Collected Poems, 1909-1962

Collected Poems, 1909-1962 by T.S. Eliot
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's review
Feb 03, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: japan_jul07-aug11, modernist_lit, poetry
Read from January 31 to February 04, 2010

Don't really know--

I have a mixed feeling about Eliot's poems. I found his Prufrock impenetrable, The Wasteland annoying, frustrating, and mostly incomprehensible, Ash Wednesday somewhat interesting in parts but too heavily religious. His The Hollow Men, however, resonated with me in all its haunting and chilling overtones. Ariel Poems, Minor Poems, Unfinished Poems were all meh (and can anyone explain to me what the hell's going on in his eerily Beckett-esque Sweeney's Agonistes?!?!?). Four Quartets was quite interesting in its own light, but I wasn't exactly sure what he was trying to say or describe. I did underline some particularly good lines from it, though:

"Footfalls echo in the memory / Down the passage which we did not take / Towards the door we never opened / Into the rose-garden. My words echo / Thus, in your mind" ("Burnt Norton," I)

"Words, after speech, reach / Into the silence..." ("Burnt Norton," V)

"What we call the beginning is often the end / And to make an end is to make a beginning. / The end is where we start from" ("Little Gidding," V)

Overall, I probably have to spend more time absorbing them. A lot of things do get lost on the first read and it is in the slower second read that we can hope to gain a deeper understanding. Poetry is different from fiction, and I'm still an amateur reader of the verse.

The "Occasional Verse" section had some cool, charming poems, and let me quote a section from it:

"The enduring is not a substitute for the transient. /Neither one for the other. But the abstract conception / Of private experience at its greatest intensity / Becoming universal, which we call 'poetry', / May be affirmed in verse" ("A Note on War Poetry").

Overall, Eliot's poems taught me how important it is to spend time with each poem and how difficult is to read poetry in general. It seems the reader is looking for poems that best describe their "private experience at its greatest intensity," which means the reader blatantly reads meaning into the text (who doesn't?). To the extent that I came away with a poem I liked (The Hollow Men), I'd say the reading was fruitful.
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