October 21st, 2004


I like this poem

I've been putting off Doing The Poetry Meme because there are about a hundred poems that I'd love to share with my readers, and it's so hard to choose between them. I thought about going for Her Anxiety by Yeats, which I'm slightly fangirlishly embarrassed to say I first encountered back in nineteen-ninety-mumble when I saw it in spyinthehaus's sig file; but I discarded both that and Emily Dickinson's The Heart Asks Pleasure First (which I discovered by way of Michael Nyman's score for The Piano), not to mention half a dozen poems by Philip Larkin, on the grounds that they were all too dark, cold and melancholy for my current mood...

... which is ironic, really, since in the end I chose something that's just as bleak in its own way. Sorry if you thought you were going to get something cheery, after all that build-up. The poem I've chosen is a little-known poem by T. S. Eliot, and I think it deserves wider recognition, though I suspect Mrs Eliot and the people at Faber wouldn't agree with my methods of achieving this (so let's not tell them). It doesn't have the tightness of form, structure, or rhyme that I normally look for in poetry; it doesn't have the richness of allusion that I usually enjoy in Eliot's poetry; it may seem a sparse little sliver of verse, but something about it just hits me every time.

In the Department Store

The lady of the porcelain department
Smiles at the world through a set of false teeth.
She is business-like and keeps a pencil in her hair

But behind her sharpened eyes take flight
The summer evenings in the park
And heated nights in second story dance halls.

Man's life is powerless and brief and dark
It is not possible for me to make her happy.