So here it is, the second day of 2015. Last year around this time I was resolving not to tread down the well beaten path of self-improvement as New Year’s Resolution, but instead take a more noble and genteel resolve to learn a rather lengthy poem and in doing so become closer to art, beauty and poetry. I had set my sights on memorizing the entirety of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot. I figured it would be difficult but not impossible. After all I had almost memorized all of the “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” in fifth grade (almost).
I blazed through the first stanza within a week, worked my way through the second stanza, often mixing up “fog” and “smoke” (deciding the fog is a cat, therefore “rubs its back upon the window panes”, and smoke is a dog rubbing its “muzzle on the window panes”) and then I got to “And indeed there will be time . . .”
Time to learn the rest of this poem later in the great big year ahead of me. Yep.
The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
In my defense I did read through it from time to time and would often remember fleeting lines here or there, filtering my life in 2014 through the poem. For instance, while vacationing with my family this summer I retooled the opening to make it:
The Love Song of P. Anna Barr
Let us go then, you and me
When the evening is spread out like spilled coffee
Dribbling off a dirty fast food table
Let’s get through security, to certain departing gates
Though flight delays will make us wait
For restless nights in overpriced 3 star hotels
Family vacations that end in ridiculous arguments
Of unspecified intent
That lead you to an overwhelming question
Oh do not ask what is it
There’s a placard right there. Read something for a change!
In the room the children come and go fighting over who gets to play Nintendo
When I first read this poem in my teens I felt a strong bond with its voice, but as I worked through it as a 46 year old woman I became very aware of how masculine it is.
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I’m definitely not Prince Hamlet, but in an entirely different way than the narrator implies. A great deal of Prufrock involves the narrator attempting to unravel the mysteries of women. Being a woman, I haven’t had much cause to unravel the mysteries of myself (that’s why I have a therapist), or men for that matter as their voices and viewpoints are everywhere. I learned early on to identify with male protagonists in movies and literature, and my love of this poem is a perfect example of this. However, as a middle aged woman I feel I have less latitude in identifying with men, or perhaps less inclination. I’m probably just making excuses for myself, but it ultimately colored my enthusiasm for the poem and at times I considered searching for a poem of equal epic proportions by a female author. Obviously my feminist impulse was not great enough to move me to action.
When November finally rolled around and it occurred to me I was not going to fulfill my resolution, I panicked. I tried cramming, but the holiday season was already creeping into my schedule. Both of the bands I play in had shows scheduled, my family had a road trip on the books, and immediately after the road trip I flew to New York City to catch Hedwig and the Angry Inch with Michael C. Hall. Who needs Prufrock when you can have Dexter in drag?
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker
And I have heard the eternal Customer Service rep take my call and snicker
“Sorry, your warranty has expired. I can sell you a refurbished moment of greatness if you like”
“No thanks. I’ll get used to the flickering. “
~ Love Song of P. Anna Barr
In short, my lofty goal of learning this poem absolutely failed. Perhaps I should have resolved to gain and lose the same 5 pounds in a 3 months cycle over the course of the year. I probably could have done that (heck I think I did do that. Can these resolution things be retroactive?)
I grow old, I grow old
I shall wear the bottoms of my cargo pants rolled
Do I dare to eat gluten? Should I be dairy-free?
May I sip a glass of wine when dining with friends
I have heard the mermaids singing each to each
Those amphibious bitches have never once given me the time of day
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Shut the f@#& up, you scaly tarts!
For 2015 I resolve to read more, write more, drink less and see every new Tom Hiddleston movie in the theater. I’ll let you know how that works out.
To get my New Year off to a happy start, here is Tom Hiddleston reciting the first part of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”. (For the record, I can recite slightly more than he does here!)