Perfect Prufrock Timing


“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (originally subtitled Prufrock among the Women) by T.S. Eliot was published June 1915 in the literary magazine Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. Ajan Syrian, Bliss Carman and Skipwith Cannell are a few of the writers also featured during that issue. In all of the previously mentioned poets’ works there was a distinct air of formality and romanticism that was almost stifling. In Poetry’s archival T.S. Eliot’s work is listed after Ajan Syrian, Bliss Carman, and  Skitwith Cannell and to say that “…J. Alred Prufrock” was a breath of fresh air would be an understatement.

The works that Harriet Monroe chose to accompany Eliot’s poem were so drastically different in style it’s easy to see how her audience would have been shocked. Don’t get me wrong, I really admire the language of “The Syrian Lover in Exile Remembers Thee, Light of My Land” and the way Ajan Syrian makes hopelessness captivating. But, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” poem’s candidacy is satisfying because it depicts a realistic, modern internal conflict.

I think T.S. Eliot’s “Prufrock” is raw emotion where romantic poems just aren’t daring enough to go. The poem’s success or impression says something about the mindset of Poetry’s audience. World War I was going on during this time, technology was moving forward fast and Eliot’s readers weren’t moving “into the march of dawn” with “unanxious eyes” anymore (Carman). Eliot’s awkward vulgarity and candidacy was in the right publication at just the right time.


(google images)

Source: Poetry Archival



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One Response to Perfect Prufrock Timing

  1. Prof VZ says:

    Great effort at some archival recovery here. What would make your post even stronger would be to include an image of one of those other poem (to substantiate your claims) and perhaps a link to that issue on the Poetry Foundation’s website. I think there is something to the claim about WWI and the audience’s expectations for poetry. But noting that the poem was composed much earlier (1910-11), one might also turn to advances in psychology (principally Freud) who really opened up what he called the unconscious to artistic reflection. It’s interesting that Eliot shares the pessimism of, say, a Hardy or Houseman, but amplifies it with his intense and suffocating introspection. And of course, all is thrown off kilter not only by the heavy irony, but by the clashing rhetorical registers (high and low) and the fragmented, digressive form.

    As far as formatting is concerned,there is an easy way to wrap text around an image, and also to include a caption. Just click on the picture icon within the picture as you hover over it and you will be able to explore those options. Please go back and fix the formatting.

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