Tuesday n00bsday: Poetry (“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”)

Poetry: one of the world’s oldest art forms, co-invented by Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein, I believe.  That sounds right.  Sadly, the vast world of poetry is one that I know exceedingly little about.  If it’s not about a cat in a hat or where the sidewalk ends, I probably haven’t heard it—or at least didn’t understand it.

Shakespeare owes a lot to this guy.

Now to be fair, I know some Edgar Allen Poe.  The Raven, am I right?  Nevermore and all that.  “All that,” of course, meaning every other word of the poem, which I don’t remember.  Okay, full disclosure, the only Poe I could quote you is from a fantastic song adaptation of “Annabelle Lee” by Sarah Jarosz.  But hey, I like the song!  So let’s check out some real poetry.

Poe was more of a slam poet, but I’m sure he would like the bluegrass version, too.

Ok, here’s one.  “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot (thank you, Eryn).  Sounds nice and simple—probably a romantic ballad about some star-crossed lover…or something.  As it happens I’ve read one of Eliot’s poems before: “The Waste Land,” Eliot’s famous adaptation of the song “Baba O’Riley” by The Who.  So here we go: “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” by T.S. Eliot.

Now that’s poetry!

“LET us go then, you and I,

When the evening is spread out against the sky”

 Oh, J. Alfred, that sounds so romantic!  I’d love to go with you.

“Like a patient etherized upon a table;”

Wait okay, I know this one: ether is a notoriously unstable chemical that was used as anesthetic back when doctors were still idiots.  So let’s be honest, that patient is probably dead.  So the night is…sprawled out dead on a table?  I thought you were taking me somewhere nice, J. Alfred!

“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?’”

 Really?  You’re just going to come right out and tell me that you’re notgoing to tell me what the hell you’re talking about?  Clearly you know you’re not making any sense, since I have to ask you.  But it’s okay, I wouldn’t want to make you explain while you’re enjoying your sawdust oysters.

Tasty, tasty sawdust.

“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.”

 Did you just rhyme “window-panes” with “window-panes?”  Have you even read Dr. Seuss?

“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.”

Okay, J. Alfred, be honest.  Are you going to murder me?  Because that’s all I got from this paragraph.  Or verse.  Or whatever.

That’s not creepy at all!

“In the room the women come and go

Talking of Michelangelo.”

Those silly women, everyone knows Leonardo is the best Ninja Turtle!

“And indeed there will be time

To wonder, ‘Do I dare?’ and, ‘Do I dare?’”

…if we’re back to considering murdering me, no, you do not dare!  This is exactly why I keep a gun in my purse, you crazy person.  Okay full disclosure: I’ve completely lost the thread of what you’re trying to say, J. Alfred.  First I thought we were going on a date, then it got really smoky or something, and now you have all the time in the world to consider murdering me?  Or yourself?  Help me out here, J. Alfred, what do you want?

“And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,

When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,

Then how should I begin

To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?

And how should I presume?”

Oh…so that’s what you’re into.  I won’t lie I was kind of hoping that this date would go really well, if you know what I mean, but pinning you to the wall while you…do whatever that is…is a little out of my comfort zone.

“Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?

I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.

I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.”

Are we just going to talk about you all night, J. Alfred?  I mean, you’re obviously a very interesting crazy person, but I’m not just a pair of extremely bored and confused ears.

“I do not think that they will sing to me.”

I guess that’s a “no,” then.

“I have seen them riding seaward on the waves

Combing the white hair of the waves blown back

When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea

By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown

Till human voices wake us, and we drown.”

Yeah so…I think I’m gonna go now.  Thanks for the sawdust oysters and for not murdering me.  But don’t bother calling, J. Alfred…I just don’t think you’re my type.


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