Eliot’s Poetry: Playing on Ambiguity

I give up. I’ve tried so hard to fight my internalized spite of poetry, but I can’t change how I feel. The Wasteland is not my cup o’ tea. I like some poetry; I’ve read Plath, Tennyson, Joyce and others with modest enjoyment. There are actually a couple in particular I can recite from heart like some of William Blake’s work. But the poetry I most enjoy I are not the ones that hide in between words and demand a hefty cipher to decode what the poet is trying to convey. In fact I think majority of the supposed “great poets” are just plain lazy. It’s a bold statement, but poetry just seems like an art that requires a greater duty from the reader than the writer. In fact I’d say that poetry is really only proclaimed and valued by those who make claims and connections that aren’t really there. I think the ones that are highly acclaimed just happen to be interpreted well.  And it’s unfair of me because I’m throwing away the meter and rhythm that poetry demands, but it means nothing to me. I honestly can’t hear any pattern when I read most of this stuff. If the Wasteland is one of the greatest poems of the 20th century than I might as well just abandon it altogether.


I remember a friend once told me how music and art is given such passion by its audience because we’re not appreciating the artist’s work, but rather our own interpretation. Once art is released to the public it’s no longer in sole possession of the artist, it’s everyone’s! This is a very basic concept, but no song has ever been heard in the same way. One song may mean dozens of things to me, but incite many different tones and emotions to another. The song “Lovers In a Dangerous Time” was originally written with simple intentions of conveying the desperation and hopelessness of love in youth before parting ways into adulthood. Yet around the 80s the song was interpreted as a response to the large AIDS outbreak occurring in the decade. Bruce Cockburn didn’t create much; the listeners embellished and transformed it into another piece entirely. Poetry as an art is very similar to this idea.


The thing I dislike the most about poetry is how ambiguous the authors purposely attempt to be. Poetry has always appeared to me as a very personal and secluded act, nearly that of a diary where one can express themselves freely. Yet poetry is published, and the poem becomes a codex, demanding readers to attempt to decipher it, which also requires a biographical account of its author to understand his or her influences and perspectives. Really it attempts to ploy itself as secluded and personal, but when it becomes published it just demonstrates how the author is screaming for attention and readers to investigate into his or her own life. Artists claim to produce art out of a desire to elicit emotions and provoke ideas to their audience, but I think a larger component is a desire to be heard and known. Sounds selfish, but who really isn’t?  I don’t blame em’. Who doesn’t want to be famous, right?


To end my rant on a low note the thing that really pisses me off the most about Eliot’s poetry is his use of other European languages. It just comes off as presumptuous, and he’s not even a citizen of the continent. I’m not impressed you can write a few sentences in other languages, requiring me to translate it.  Good for you Eliot, if anyone pulled that crap in one of our class essays you’d only come off as a total douche. And one of the greatest criticisms of some of my essays is the amount of ambiguity. Common question asked of me is “What is it you mean, what are you trying to say?” Most poets don’t care. Just spit out your vague preachings and let your readers scramble to piece it all together. Whole idea just seems overrated and given too much glorification.


That’s just my very unhumble and biased opinion, so if anyone still wants to talk about Eliot a week later and start a discussion or argument against anything I’ve said, feel free! We’ll start a good old flame war if anyone’s game.


Enjoy the reading week everyone!


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