Thursday, September 22, 2005

T. S. Eliot: “Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.”

I think I know what Eliot means. At first read this quote doesn’t make sense because how can something heard or read communicate if it is not understood? In order to communicate, doesn’t the person on the receiving end have to understand what was heard or read?

I think Eliot is talking about the immediate impact of a poem’s tone, imagery, and music. They can communicate even if the words are not fully understood. It’s like classical music or jazz. There are no lyrics to help interpret the piece of music, yet a listener can hear a piece and describe it as happy, melancholic, erotic, etc. Eliot’s objective correlative is about how imagery or a situation or a sequence of events can evoke a particular emotion in a reader or an audience. So, it seems that a poem can communicate in stages or on levels. There is the sound and the sense. The emotional feel of the poem communicates first followed by the understanding of the words. I’d argue that unless a poem goes way over your head that the two happen almost simultaneously.

Eliot may just mean that really good poems communicate an emotion(s) before the accumulation of the denotations of the words are understood by us.

I seem to be circling around the central idea of emotion as the communication Eliot is taking about.


At 11:56 AM, Blogger Terry Schneider said...

I will keep your analysis in mind as I listen next week to a presentation on T.S Elliot by a lay person at a UU worship service.

At 6:01 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I understand and appreciate TS Eliot's
views.communicates means it touches the heart excites the emotion. can poetry be explained or understood the way the poet actually meant it?


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