Friday, April 03, 2009

Poetry Friday - Prufrock

Today in the mail I got my copy of Voices from the Middle, the magazine for teachers of middle school language arts put out by the National Council of Teachers of English. The topic of this issue, is, of course, poetry. It looks like there's lots of good reading in it, though I haven't started in yet.

In the center of the magazine there's a poster for National Poetry Month. I love this year's image.

Here you can see photos submitted to a contest called Free Verse: Poetry in the Wild contest. Participants were supposed to take a picture of a line of poetry "off the page," like in the image above.

"Do I dare disturb the universe?" What a question! It's quoted from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, by T.S. Eliot. When my son (aged 6) saw the poster, he laughed and said that he thought his sister would say that he disturbs the universe. J. Alfred Prufrock didn't quite dare. Poor old J. Alfred.

I remember the brilliant lecture on this poem in my American Literature class in college as though I had heard it much more recently than twenty years ago. Several quotes from this poem come to my mind frequently: "In the room the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo," "I have heard the mermaids calling, each to each - I do not think they will sing for me," "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons," and, most frequently, "I grow old, I grow old, I wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled."

Here's the beginning of the poem:

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question…
Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

You can read the rest here.

And here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.


Janet said...

I remember that lecture too. (Sigh...)

Ruth said...

Was it Western Classics or American Lit?

Janet said...

Come to think of it, I have it marked up in my American lit anthology.