Monday, January 21, 2013

The Gospel According to Eliot

This winter, I'm taking part in a virtual reading group hosted by Greener Trees. We're going through the book The Art of T.S. Eliot, by Helen Gardner. I adore Eliot's Four Quartets, so Gardner's examination of Eliot's work through the lens of that great work has been right up my alley.

I was asked to write a guest post for Chapter Three of Gardner's book, "Poetic Communication." In the chapter Gardner looks at the methods Eliot used to communicate ideas through his poetic medium. I was struck by the artful way Eliot uses words to examine spiritual concepts, without ever being "churchy." He wrestles with and through the difficulty of finding the right words for his ideas. An excerpt:
"And in spite of all this, Eliot chooses to write. He attempts to use words to communicate. Not only that, but in Four Quartets Eliot attempts to communicate ideas which are spiritual, deep, broad, and resonant. He compounds his own struggles, reaching – as those of us too timid to try it might say – perhaps higher than he should. Helen Gardner puts it this way: “He is not intentionally writing obscurely in order to mystify, or to restrict his audience to a few like-minded persons with a special training, but is treating a subject of extreme complexity, which is constantly eluding formulation in words."
You can read the rest at Greener Trees.

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