Can poetry matter? The problem with most poetry these days is low ambitions. Oh, I know, Shelley once explained that poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world, but what many of them want is to be the world’s acknowledged legislators. And so a huge amount of political verse is poured out these days to try to change the world. But it still has low ambitions, as poetry, never seeking to use poetry as the fundamental art by which we try to understand the human condition in general and our own times in particular.”
Joseph Bottum, First Things
Can you name any poem that has influenced you or that you believe has changed the way we “understand the human condition”?
I do think the ideas of T.S. Eliot have entered the collective consciousness. We think in terms of hollow men and Prufrock as typifying the plight of modern man. We see the landscape and our lives as a “vast wasteland” and man as lost and wandering among the ash heaps. Other than Eliot, I can’t think of a poet who has really been an “unacknowledged legislator” in the past hundred years. Can you?
Michael Gough reading T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J.. Alfred Prufrock:
Poet of the Day: T. S. Eliot
Poetry activity for today: Listen to a poet read his own poem. For links to poetry read aloud, try this list called Poetry Aloud, A Directory of Poetry Readings on the Internet.