The web page of the Albion Beatnik Bookstore in Oxford, now closed (as usual) for business: muses and misspills on books, jazz, poetry, stuff like false flags and smoke screen: was randomly decrepit and proven to be more than neo-bankrupt: it was so analogue it was anal and now deceased.
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock hangs on the inside of the shop toilet door. It would be included in any anthology of poetry read best in the loo and, as everyone knows, T.S. Eliot is an anagram of toilets. The poem is blotting paper to the projected thought of its reader (is like the patchwork ambiguity of Lennon and McCartney), is about everything and nothing – although it pertains specifically to Prufrock’s response to his frustrations, lost opportunities, thwarted desires, regret, weariness, sexual lassitude, in fact the angst-ridden inertia of a failed life, Lennon and McCartney’s A Day in the Life of the universal man and woman. A specific failing in unrequited love, or a meaningless existence in a modern world that makes no sense, or anything in between. The poem’s wonder is that it sparkles on the page, and this comes to the fore when it is recited out loud. The clash of vocabulary and the meld of beauty and formality, the ethereal and the mundane, makes it awesome.
Eliot began to write The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock in 1910, although it was published in the June 1915 issue of Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, later published in a twelve-poem chapbook, Prufrock and Other Observations. This is the coming of age of Eliot, the point of his arrival as one of the major poets of the twentieth century, steering poetry away from late nineteenth century romantic verse and Georgian lyrics to Modernism.