In 1922, T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), an American living in England, published The Waste Land, widely viewed as perhaps the greatest and most iconic poem of the twentieth century. Virginia Woolf recognized its power immediately, praising it for its “great beauty and force of phrase: symmetry and tensity.” And yet, as nearly a hundred years’ worth of readers and critics have found, its tangle of cultural and literary references can confound as well as compel. Who was T.S. Eliot? What was Modernism and how did he fit into it? What’s The Waste Land about? And what can it offer today’s readers?
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In his new book Why Poetry, the poet Matthew Zapruder has issued “an impassioned call for a return to reading poetry and an incisive argument for its accessibility to all readers.” The poet Robert Hass says, “Zapruder on poetry is pure pleasure. His prose is so direct that you have the impression, sentence by sentence, that you are being told simple things about a simple subject and by the end of each essay you come to understand that you’ve been on a very rich, very subtle tour of what’s aesthetically and psychologically amazing about the art of poetry.”
In this episode, Matthew Zapruder joins Jacke for a discussion on why poetry is often misunderstood, and how readers can clear away the misconceptions and return to an appreciation for the charms and power of poetry. Along the way, they discuss poems by W.H. Auden, Brenda Hillman, and John Keats, and the views of critics like Harold Bloom, Giambattista Vico, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Paul Valery.
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