Judy Croome lives, writes and reads in Johannesburg, South Africa. A novelist & poet, Judy loves cats, exploring the meaning of life, chocolate, rainy days and cats (who already appear to have discovered the meaning of life.) Visit Judy on www.judycroome.com or join her on Twitter @judy_croome
I've read (and listened to) this collection of poems half a dozen times. THE WASTE LAND is, without a doubt, still my favourite. It's hard to understand, pompous at times and so dense with allusions to other works I lose track of what's Eliot's work and what isn't. And yet ... on some atavistic level this poem still "talks" to me. The rhythm, the magic, the sheer (dare I say it) poetry in the lines (April is the cruellest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land) draws a reader in and shakes up emotions I didn't even know I had.
The tension between the physical and the metaphysical is tremendous; Eliot clearly had a deep experience of how earthbound and limited we are by the very denseness of our bodies (...the last fingers of leaf Clutch and sink into the wet bank), while the voice of our souls rush by unheard (The wind Crosses the brown land unheard). THE WASTE LAND is a mournful cry of a man trapped in a world of harsh reality (it was written only four years afer the devastation of Europe in World War 1), sensing there is something more (Madame Sosostris), yet unable to feel or perhaps believe in it (... this card, which is blank,...,which I am forbidden to see). Here, in this poem, is the struggle between the intellect and the emotions (fear death by water - in the Tarot the water cards represent emotion), good and evil and man's lower, sexual nature and his higher, Divine nature.
What a brilliant, depressing, strong poem it is!
So strong, it almost overshadows the other poems in this collection. But ASH WEDNESDAY, with its tone of sorrow and penitance already obvious from the title, is another powerful poem, as is JOURNEY OF THE MAGI and the remainder of the poems.
In its struggle between hope and despair, this collection is as relevant today as it was in Eliot's time and is worth the effort it takes to try and grasp its elusive meaning.