Thursday, November 10, 2011

T. S. Eliot Poems for December

We've collaborated on this selection of Eliot's poems to read for our December discussion. As you see, the list is rather long. These poems all merit our attention, but some are more likely to figure in our discussion than others. So our suggestion is to read as many as you have time for, but concentrate especially on the italicized ones.

This way, you can read more widely if you wish, and the discussion will be enriched even if we don't spend a lot of time on each one of them. Contrariwise, people who are pressed for time in December can limit their reading to the lesser number and still be sufficiently prepared.

*The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
*The Hollow Men
*The Waste Land
Journey of the Magi
*From Four Quartets: "Burnt Norton" and "The Dry Salvages"
Burbank with a Baedeker: Bleisten with a Cigar
Sweeney Among the Nightingales
Ash Wednesday
Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats

If you're reading from one of the editions of Eliot's Complete Poems and Plays, you may find it lacking in explanatory material. I plan to follow Bill Combs' suggestion and find a Norton Anthology or other resource that contains some extra help! And at David Isaacson's request, I've embedded this audio clip of T. S. Eliot reading aloud. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Thomas Wolfe's Vocabulary

Whatever else you may think of it, Look Homeward, Angel is good for a little vocabulary building:

phthistic: Archaic Any illness of the lungs or throat, such as asthma or a cough.

stipe: the stem or stalk-like feature supporting the cap of a mushroom

convolve:  to roll together; writhe.

octopal:   resembling or having the characteristics of an octopus. "all the slow octopal movements of her temper" — Thomas Wolfe

guerdon:  reward, recompense.

If you eat poison stipes, you may experience only a phthistic reaction, or possibly an octopal convolving of the intestines will be your guerdon. Better leave 'em alone.