Between the Two World Wars

T.S. Eliot is another one of my favorite poets. The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock, perhaps, being one of the most haunting and beautiful poems I have ever read. He has a way of speaking that is lilting, and ominous at the same time.

This morning, I read East Coker, one of the poems in the book, Four Quartets, by T.S. Eliot. Here is a passage that, to me, as a writer, is breathtaking.

So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years —

Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l’entre deux guerres

Trying to learn to use words, and every attempt

Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure

Because one has only learnt to get the better of words

For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which

One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture

Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate

With shabby equipment always deteriorating

In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,

Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to


By strength and submission, has already been discovered

Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot


To emulate — but there is no competition —

There is only the fight to recover what has been lost

And found and lost again and again: and now, under


That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.

For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.

It always gets me, grabs me and shakes me a little – to realize some of the writers I adore, those whose way with words is simply stunning, wrestled with the feeling that they had no talent for writing. T.S. Eliot and C.S. Lewis both wrote about not knowing what they were doing, and not being able to get their point across. In one way, that makes me want to throw in my pen. In another, I know that they struggled, and fought and overcame and maybe never even really knew that they’d reached people, but they did. Anne Lamott has shared this struggle. Madeleine L’Engle almost gave up, until she realized that writing was in her bones – whether anyone ever published a word she had to share, or not, she had to write. It was necessary for her own soul and spirit.

Anyone with something to say, seems to have wondered if anyone would want to hear it. This is strangely satisfying and somehow comforting.

This has nothing to do with what I will share with my kids tonight. For Language and Literature night, we will be looking at Spoonerisms, because they are hilarious and they are a fun way to laugh and learn about language at the same time.

Photo from here – because as Billy Collins has shared, we all know that poets stare out their windows. It is what poets do.

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