When I opened up the poem and looked at the first line, I was immediately thrown back to grade 12. Not because I’d read it before, but because in my writer’s craft class the teacher used to give us prompts to begin writing something at the beginning of most classes. One of these prompts was “April is the cruellest month…”. I don’t even remember what I wrote to follow it anymore, but I’m sure it’s still somewhere at home, on a scrap piece of paper buried under piles of notes. I almost wish I could go find it now, but I guess I’ll just have to wait until the summer, if I remember that long. I feel like my teacher may have mentioned it was the first line to a famous poem, but I had never heard of it before so it didn’t register. Now I’m stuck with a feeling of nostalgia for a poem I recently read for the first time, and a curiosity that can’t be solved at the moment. It’s odd though, how much the memories that first line brought about impacted how I read the poem. I had a sense of fondness all throughout, and it felt like a secret was being revealed, the secret of what’s meant to follow “April is the cruellest month”.
This poem was certainly tricky to navigate, and not easy to understand at first glance. But then again, as mentioned in the seminar today, maybe poetry isn’t meant to be “understood”. A poem is not a vault of secrets that can be opened by a select few with the right perspective. Or maybe it is? Did Eliot have something specific he wanted each reader to take away from this poem? The thing with poetry is it’s open to interpretation, and frequently means something different to every person. The teacher previously mentioned once gave a group a bad mark on a presentation for “interpreting the poem wrong”. We, of course, were all up in a fuss about this, as the idea that one can interpret a piece of art the “wrong way” just seems ridiculous. Perhaps it’s not that poetry has no meaning, but in fact has too much meaning. I’m sure we all connected differently with different passages. For example, lines 315-318 are some of my favourites, along with the first stanza.
Secret meaning or not, it’s certainly a beautiful poem. Looking forward to the lecture, see you all there!