BookChums Cart
» » How to Identify some good Modernist Poetry

How to Identify some good Modernist Poetry

Post by: Kabita Sonowal

“Let us go then, you and I, 
When the evening is spread out against the sky 
Like a patient etherized upon a table;”
- From The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (TS Eliot)



The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock has always been regarded as the hallmark of modernist poetry and most of us would agree. It draws a vivid picture of Prufrock who is given to procrastination, has a sense of aging and unrequited love, and pinched by indecisiveness, regret, and remorse. Drawn along the lines of the stream of consciousness technique,  it set the tone of a coming-of-age period when the literary world experimented with psychoanalysis and the uncertainty of the world wars.


Further the poem was stylized as a dramatic monologue; it revealed Prufrock weathered by the failures of life with a mind that was absolutely split. Further in the poem, Eliot drew a sickening yet marvelous canvas of the evening that looked ‘like a patient etherized upon a table’ which showed his subject’s troubled mind. A raconteur of subtle ploy and words, Eliot went on to describe superficial settings of social gatherings where women talked ‘about Michelangelo’ and scenes where Prufrock feared rejection and mortality – ‘I have measured out my life with coffee spoons’. The entire poem is a one-sided discourse on Prufrock’s stifled and futile existence in a society from which he felt alienated.



Eliot’s Preludes and Rhapsody on a Windy Night are other thrilling examples of modernist poetry. His descriptions of ‘sparrows in the gutters’, ‘blackened street’, ‘soiled hands’, ‘gathering fuel in vacant lots’, ‘smells of dust and old Cologne’, and many others defined lives of decadence and sordidness.


Modernist poetry dominated the literary scene between 1890 and 1950. Most of it was illustrative of the poets’ emotions in a lyrical manner and their thoughts were dominated by politics and other current events. WB Yeats was one of them; his poems are a blend of Irish mysticism, folklore, love, and patriotism. His poem, Red Hanrahan's Song about Ireland and The Song of the Wandering Aengus are beautiful examples of folklore and romanticism juxtaposing with modernity.


A reference to EE Cummings’ Tulips and Chimneys and Ezra Pound’s Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, Ripostes, and The Cantos are other examples of modernist poetry.


0 Comment

Add Your Comment: