One of the more demoralizing things that the internet vomits up is Google’s offering interpretations of poetry when I look for a line.
Poetry I’ve read often returns to my mind in fragments – like earworms from music. So I go to Google to recall which poem it’s from so that I can put the fragments into context and perhaps get some insight into why my brain wants me to pay attention to it.
The last few days it’s been
I usually have a pretty good idea of where the fragments are coming from, both in terms of their literary provenance and my thinking at the time, but it’s worth taking some time with them.
No, Google. Google also consistently asks me if I really want to search my last name when I do that. I thought the experience was supposed to be personalized?
Ah, I did have that word wrong, but do did Google. And I suspected it was from “The Waste Land.”
And then there’s always something like this.
The interpretations are ALWAYS awful. They interrupt my meditation. And, good grief, what teacher would expect or want that response?
The fact that these “interpretive” pieces show up near the top indicates that yes indeed, many students are desperately trying to finish an incomprehensible homework assignment. Or perhaps their teachers are desperately trying to understand the poem well enough to be able to discuss it in class and give a homework assignment.
I doubt that they think about how it fits with the rest of the poem or with any sort of reality if they are finding interpretations this way. But even the worst interpretations I recall from my school days – yes, of course, the Dog is a Christ figure – gave me something deeper to work with. The critics? Oh come on, if Eliot intended anything like that, he was laughing at the reader. Which is a sense I’ve had about parts of “The Waste Land,” so maybe that too.