A good reflection on the importance of reading difficult poetry. (And it’s about my favorite poet too!)
Think of the world as divided between things easily labelled and things just barely describable. Civilians work with the easily labelled things, but when something just barely describable confronts us, we call in the language marines: poets. But then, out beyond that, there’s Eliot and the type of poetry he represents. It’s another step beyond. It agrees that special tactics need to be applied to the nearly-unspeakable. Eliot argued that, given the way the twentieth century was turning out, “it appears likely that poets in our civilization, as it appears at present, must be difficult.” Why? Because in a complex world, “the poet must become more and more comprehensive, more allusive, more indirect, in order to force, to dislocate if necessary, language into his meaning.” Eliot knows he’s asking words to do things they’re not trained to do, and that the odds are against him.