02 May 2007


I was going to title this post 'April is Not the Cruelest Month'. But then, I thought to myself, 'where does that line come from'? Yes, it's Eliot's The Waste Land. I think I knew that and then forgot it, but I don't think I'd ever read the poem. And it occurred to me that perhaps I should, since maybe Eliot didn't really mean that April was cruel in the first place. After all, the opening lines read:

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
This all set me off on a long detour of reading the poem and trying very hard, but utterly failing, to understand it. Eventually I just tried to grasp the first section, and maybe I got some of it, but I'm still not certain whether he meant to say that April was cruel or not.

And this meant that I couldn't really use that title for my post, and besides, I'd now wasted all the time I was going to spend describing what went on in April (and trying rather lamely to justify or explain my blogging absence) – I'd spent that time reading Eliot and realising once again that I'm just not cut out for poetry exegesis.


Transient Gadfly said...

it's about grading. TSE longed to write poetry, do his own work, take long walks in the sunshine, enjoy the change of seasons, watch a movie, sleep late, eat peaches. but no, he had huge towering monstrous piles of papers all over the house that needed grading before exams. april always seems nearly warm, nearly summer, nearly done, and yet so so far away from all of these. poor TSE.

--mtg (guess what i'm doing this weekend)

sageblue said...

I have to say that some of my favorite moments with poetry were with TSE and, in particular, that poem. There's a great facsimile edition with Pound's comments if you'd like to check it out of your library. It's fascinating.

But, no, you aren't meant to just sit down and read it, so don't fret.

tenaciousmcd said...

TG nailed it. I'd add only the seasonal allergy hack. My students, on the other side of the grading, might say it was really May, however.

Jack said...

For kicks:

Of Mere Being

The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze distance.

A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the plam, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.

You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.

The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird's fire-fangled feathers dangle down.

Wallace Stevens