Saturday, 21 October 2017

T.S.Eliot and the Russian connection

On a recent visit to London I took a stroll off Kensington High Street.  It was a mild and dry Autumn evening.  As I walked I noticed a plaque on a wall.  Like all readers and writers our sub-conscious is always on the look out for something to read.  I walked nearer to get a proper view and read that the house I was standing in front of was where T.S.Eliot lived and died.  I had recently read an extract by T.S.Eliot referenced by from the 1932-33 Norton Lectures titled 'The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism'.  The piece which drew my attention was related to 'how some forms of physical illness (if other circumstances are favourable) produce an efflux of poetry in a way approaching the condition of automatic writing......the material has obviously been incubating within the poet, me the impression,.... .some obstruction is momentarily whisked away'.

I have had a personal experience with an illness and a pouring forth of poetry and have explained it 'as if a curtain had been parted'.

As I was taking a photo of the plaque a woman stopped to talk.  She lives further along this road and said I was the first person she noticed in five years that had stopped to look. We had a wonderful chat.  It turned out she is Russian and writes poetry and told me of Joseph Brodsky having written a poem 'Verses on the Death of T.S. Eliot', on hearing of the death of T.S.Eliot and how he had written it based on the form of a poem that W.H.Auden had written after the death of W.B.Yeats.  Some more information is available through JSTOR from a Journal, The Russian Review,  published by Wiley in 1968.

Earlier that evening I had a run in Hyde Park and afterwards imagined T.S.Eliot walking along the same pathways on another Autumn evening.

On my return to Cork a few days later I was browsing in The Village Hall and found and bought a copy of 'Russian Short Stories' by Everyman's Library.

The first story is by Pushkin and I have included a reference to this story in a poem I am currently writing.

(c) Bernadette Gallagher