Reading Aloud (#26): T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (1915)

An amazing poem with a myriad layers of meaning. A hundred years have passed since it’s writing and it is still as powerful now as it was then.

Sketching a Present

IMG_0844 pp. 2-3 of The Complete Poems and Plays, 1909-1950 (w/ undergrad notes)

My favorite poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” turns 100 this month. I first read T.S. Eliot in the spring of 2004 (my second semester at Northern Michigan University) and recall that I did not think much of him until Austin Hummell, subbing for Mark Smith (the instructor of record), invited the class to follow along as we read through “Prufrock” aloud. Professor Hummell’s enthusiasm for the poem—or perhaps just his excitement at getting to teach it—managed what I so often fail to do with my own students: it made me interested. Interested in Eliot’s similes (“Like a patient etherized upon a table”?). In his imagery (“yellow smoke”? “sprawling on a pin”? “a magic lantern”?). In the poem’s utter sadness (“I do not think that they will sing to me”). Its allusiveness (“S’io credesse che mia…

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