Where to begin? I’ve always had problems with this poem. Here’s a link to a heavily and usefully annotated version.
The Wasteland is a difficult poem in structure, language(s), and density of allusion. Before the poem even begins we are given, from Petronius’s Satyricon, an epigraph which is a mixture of Latin and Greek. The dedication to Ezra Pound alludes to Dante. And in the first four lines of the poem itself
we apparently have references to both Walt Whitman and Geoffrey Chaucer.
Add to this the story that Eliot wrote the thing while hospitalized during a nervous breakdown. It was originally 1000 lines, but while still in hospital he asked his good friend Ezra Pound to help revise it. Pound apparently cut the poem to 434 lines (more on this).
Where am I going with all this? I’m not sure – that’s the point. I would like to engage in discussion with others about the poem itself, and about the annotations by Eliot as well as the added notes in the link I provided. As the poem is in 5 parts, I would like to see the discussion move in somewhat orderly fashion through those parts. I do realize that the density and complexity of the poem may make that impossible. If so, c’est la vie (as Chuck Berry was wont to sing) – we’ll find another way through it.
Being somewhat of a fanatic on matters poetical, it annoys me that I don’t have a better grasp on The Wasteland. And therefore, on where it belongs in my personal canon.
So let’s have your insights and thoughts, folks. It doesn’t matter to me if you’ve even read the poem before. It doesn’t matter if you’ve read it 100 times before. It doesn’t matter if you like poetry, or don’t like poetry. It’s your fine minds I want to pick.