I spent less time in school studying than I should have, and not enough time in school, generally. Though things have worked out, I regret not learning more when I didn’t have to worry about a mortgage, etc., but I try to make up for it. I knew the poem is considered “one of the most important, poems of the 20th century”, but that didn’t make me any more eager to read it.
It’s not easy reading. Like a Pynchon novel, the poem switches narrators, and timeframes without warning. Did Eliot intend it to be performed or only read? I don’t know. Shakespeare meant for his plays to be acted, not studied, and like Shakespeare’s work, when heard, the poem comes alive, even for an oaf like me.
This from an episode of BBC 4’s Poetry Please. Listeners request poems, and they’re read by top-flight British actors. It’s the longest running poetry program in the world. The readers here are Eliot himself, Ted Hughes, and Lia Williams.
I can’t say I understand all of it, or even many of the references, but I enjoy lisening to it, and have been reading about it.
If anyone has a question about it, send them to me, and what, you think I can answer them? I’m a drop-out, people! But my friend Megan has her her Masters from Oxford, her PhD from Yale, and spends her career studying and teaching it. I’ll pass the questions along. (And if she ignores us, you can listen to a discussion of the poem, here.)