Poem 2: The Waste Land

Because of the opening lines below, the other poem that everyone expects to hear at the beginning of April is T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land:

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain. (I., 1–4)

It’s been dark and rainy all day here.  I had to ford a huge puddle, cursing myself for wearing the Crocs with the holes on the sides, just so that I could drag the garbage can back from the street.

The forsythia in the yard is making a showy splash of yellow,  I really should take some pictures of that forsythia, but I digress. Not even the thousands of little yellow flowers can brighten up all the dark, rain-soaked twigs and leaves that lie about, having lost the battle to a recent wind storm. The yard here is as much a waste land as any Eliot might journeyed.

It’s been more than a decade since I’ve studied The Waste Land as a real reader. All my notes and research are still in Illinois, so I can’t even pull them out. Once I could read the lines and round up all the connections in my thoughts, but it’s been too long. The poem is a mass of allusions and biographies and mythologies that I have to check. I wish so much that I could grab my copy of The Golden Bough and my facsimile of the edited manuscript with Pound’s editorial notes. But none of that is within reach.

If I tell truth, at this moment, the poem is lost for me. I can’t read it as a knowledgeable reader. I can’t read it with the joy I once could. That fact breaks my heart. There are so many pieces of literature I laid aside in the past 15 years that I want to spend time with, that I miss.

Yet some essence of the poem has always stayed with me. Eliot speaks to some deep inner place in my soul, though The Waste Land is not my favorite of his poems. I’ll share that another day. For me, I think The Waste Land, moreso than, say, "Prufrock," represents modern poetry. While I’m a medievalist at heart, the poet in my soul wants to be a modernist. I’ve tried my hand at poetry, but all I muster are soulless heavy lines and "A heap of broken images" (I., 22). April does seem a cruel month at times.