Thursday, September 17, 2009

TS Eliot whined too much

This is the way the world
___________________begins

(no end__in ever so
as the bough bends)

__Whorl of words

__Worldward

__no whimper

Explosion effervescent

Honeysuckle, __Lilac

15 comments:

Andrea said...

That's another fantastic poem - You shouldn't have too much trouble finding grants etc. I haven't actually read much Eliot - I probably missed the reference.

Ross Brighton said...

Thanks heaps - It's ehe end of "The Hollow Men":

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but with a whimper

Sorry I haven't got back to you about that mix, but I'm around tomorrow - I'm watching the office while everyone's out.

Robert said...

Andrea,

If you’d consider it fantastic to shoot a not-so-distant relative in the face with an air-rifle, despite the fact they’ve been dead and buried for 50 years, then I guess I can see why you’d apply the same adjective to Ross’s poem – still, I’d not number it amongst his work most worth reading.

Best,

Robert

Ross Brighton said...

Robert -
You know my taste. And mostly it's me taking issue with the tone of that piece, and his work in general (though that may, admittedly, be unfair). There's also the classism of The Waste Land, which has always made me uncomfortable.

I do find a lot of his work quite distasteful.

Robert said...

Ross,

Of course I do, you’ve told me and many others what it is many times; it's simply neither an intellectually nor a viscerally engaging poem.

I'm not a great Eliot fan, too soft in the head for me, and he certainly piled on the banalities as time progressed, culminating in the cliché fest of Four Quartets; and I've always found Anglicanism the lamest of all denominations, to which, as you know, he acquiesced. On the other hand, many of your poems, this one especially, can too easily be read (oddly, considering your animus towards TE) as, in part, exercises objective correlation, in which a bare word seems to typed into a text to induce a quite specific ‘poetic’ response from the reader, and without a connection to outside discourses whereby satire might come into play (as is the case with The Wasteland), without which a poem such as yours becomes self-destructive, as opposed making any point about its supposed object of disgust.

How were the gigs (I was at home with the sprogs)?

Best,

Robert.

Ross Brighton said...

I couldn't make them either due to over-work burn-out I'm not leaving the house-ness.

"exercises in objective correlation" - I'm not sure I get this. Or, kinda, if the object is the word. However if that is what you mean, isn't that (if we're talking High Modernism) more Pound or Stein?

As for making a point about Eliot, the poem was just something I scribbled on the bus. All it's envisioned as is a negation of the defeatism in those lines, a kind of joyous yawp in celebration of spring exploding all around me.

I really don't get the self-destructive comment - I'm not sure where that's coming from.

Robert said...

Ross
OC is from Eliot’s Hamlet essay in The Sacred Wood, and later reprinted in Selected Essays; of course, he pinched it from someone else. Stein would have thought it a ridiculous notion. Worth reading, even though it’s completely bonkers .

The comment regarding self-destruction refers to and comes from reading the poem, to no one and nothing else and from no where else, especially since I had no access to your commutative and/or seasonal elation when reading the poem, only the poem itself.

Robert.

Andrea said...

Ross - no probs, hope you're enjoying the mix. I had a lot of fun putting it together.

Robert - Well as I said Eliot isn't a writer I've read much of at all so I was coming to the poem without all those ideas in the background. I have plenty of respect for poets of the past, but also don't have a problem with a bit of irreverance around authors from the "canon" either.

maps said...

Last year a gallery in Auckland hosted a very interesting film/ installation thingymajig based on The Hollow Men by Chris Marker, the French guy who made La Jette, the legendary time travel movie. Marker had made the poem into a potted history of the 20th century.

I think the Four Quartets is wonderful - I included it in the list of best long poems of the 20th century that I put on my blog a few months back. Where are all these cliches you complain about? Quote me a few, if you cna find them!

Ross Brighton said...

Hi Maps - Glad you could Join us.
Those long-poem lists kinda put me in perspective about my fringe-ness -there's a lot on your list that I haven't heard of (though I do like Smythyman), and the only ones on Jack's that I woudl have included are the Howe (though I would have picked one of the pieces from Singularities, or maybe the Pythagorian Silences), Olson's Maximus, maybe Patterson. Kaddish is great too. The HD I've been meaning to read for some time.
What really shook me was Jack's description of Susan Howe's work as "A very odd poem from a very odd poet". Perhaps that's why he found it hard to fathom what I was on about in my chap. I assumed he'd be more familliar with such through editing Brief, and Alistair Patterson describing Chantal's Book as "L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry" (though I have to disagree with that one. It, to me, feels like there's far more of the New York school in it).

Robert- I still don't get it. It seems to me the poem is, if noting else, a exclamation of joy - and spring is in there through the flowers, coupled with "explosion". How that is self-destructive is beyond me (though there is little to indicate a "self" in the poem... but that seems besides the point)

Robert said...

Scott,

How about the first verse paragraph of Burnt Norton, say from Footfalls through mind? Not cliches?

Ross,

There are no flowers, only words. How odd of you to think otherwise. I don't think I could be any clearer than my previous post, other than to reiterate that I have no access to your intentions, and it takes more than a pair of nouns to get me going.

Robert.

Ross Brighton said...

I'd never argue that there's no content, and neither would Bruce Andrews or Lyn Hejinian.
Sure, there aren't flowers, but there are signifiers that designate them. And when is there ever anthing more?

And even if this was nothing more than a Jackson Mac Low poem with a list of nouns in one column then the selfsame list in the other modified by the article "a", I can't see how such a thing is "self destructive" - I don't mind if you don't like the poem, but it's that leap I can't fathom.

Robert said...

Ross,

Semantically.

Ross.

maps said...

Hi Robert,

surely the beginning of 'Burnt Norton'
[http://www.tristan.icom43.net/quartets/norton.html]
consists of a series of philosophical propositions about the nature of time?

The language of these statements is very abstract - some may find it aridly abstract - and the thoughts that the language expresses may be more less profound - some may find them philosophically unconvincing - but I don't see how the statements can be called cliched, in any ordinary sense of the word. I'm not aware of them being used regularly and lazily in any sort of discourse - on the contrary, they're recondite, peculiar statements.

I'm not sure whether I understand some of the finer philosophical points being made in the Quartets -and I'm not sure it's necessary to understand them - but I admire the way that Eliot is able to use long, rather prosaic lines and frequent passages of very abstract language and yet still generate effects which are, for me at least, recognisably 'poetic'.

I don't think the poem collapses into a philosophical discourse, which would have to be judged on the merits of the ideas its expresses; I think its rhythms and its transitions between abstract and very cocnrete language create the sort of experience we associate with the best poetry.

I don't like everything about the poem - for some reason, the rhymed passages annoy me, for instance - but I think it is worth pondering how difficult it must have been to bring off.

I particularly like the opening of East Coker, which I found online here:
http://www.tristan.icom43.net/quartets/coker.html

Check out the rhythm of the first stanza, which Eliot took from the Book of Eclesiastes (and which the Byrds accessed via him, when they wrote their hit 'Turn Turn Turn'?). The play of opposites in the opening lines of East Coker also reminds us of the Book of Tao, and - if we're Kiwis - of the prophetic utterances of Te Kooti.

The scene in the third stanza is extraordinarily well evoked, and shows how Eliot could move from the abstract to the concrete. The fact that Eliot was a reactionary, and that the apparition he glimpses in the English countryside is informed by both a patronising affection for 'unspoilt' peasant life and a disgust at the earthiness of such life, should not hinder so much as enhance our appreciation of the passage.

That's my take, anyway. The great thing about literature is that allows two people to disagree without demanding that one of them be completely right and the other completely wrong.

Robert McLean said...

Scott,

Of course, yes: – there is much in 4Qs I admire; for instance, the unrhymed masculine/feminine terza rima in Little Gidding is a marvel. And I have no problem whatsoever with abstract language, which generally suffers less from the tension between signified/signifier than, say, a concrete noun, and sheers closer to the quick of one’s mind. I’ve simply never found Anglicanism to be a hotbed of philosophical acuity, and 4Qs is the Anglican poem par excellence.

I tend to think these days that if a poem is to be considered worth reading, this, to me, would consist of a poem transcending its status as such, and becoming accountable to other ways of living and reading and writing, and that it stands up even when the allowances and licences routinely granted poems are withheld. I don’t think 4Qs meets this criterion – not that it has to meet it, of course.

I’ve always thought it a great shame Eliot didn’t do more with that Bolo/Sweeney stuff, which is marvellous and terrifying, and which cast a long thin shadow over the dramas.

Robert.