“Genuine poetry can communicate before it’s understood.” So said T.S. Eliot, the great Modernist poet, hinting towards how a line of poetry where “every word is at home” can become an immediate, sensual experience. However, Eliot, as one who inlaid his verses with dense allusions from obscure manuscripts and ancient texts, would no doubt also advise the student to continue on to a more complete understanding, knowing that great poetry, perhaps more than any other medium, will accommodate the readers that return, allowing them to dig deeper, and supplying rich new gifts with each consecutive encounter.
Jenny, from the Visual Communication and Branding program, has taken up this challenge in the latest installment of Radio 708. While not busy completing coursework, Jenny reads poetry. English poetry. As a student who is learning English as a second language, this can present a significant challenge, but it is one that she enjoys. Many lovers of poetry are drawn by its mysterious nature, wherein beautiful language contains multiple layers of meaning waiting to be discovered. Jenny, in the wonderful interview below, agrees. She tells PC Cherylanne and myself about how that heightened sense of mystery can be so intriguing.
She also does an excellent job of explaining a classic poem of William Butler Yeats. “No Second Troy” — which you can read below — is a conflicted lovesong to Yeats’ inspiration, Maud Gonne. It is short, but full of references to Helen of Troy and the Trojan War as well as turn-of-the-century Ireland, so we were lucky to have such a helpful guide to “unpack” the poem for us.
We invite you to take a few minutes to listen to our conversation, and read along below.
No Second Troy, by W.B. Yeats
WHY should I blame her that she filled my days
With misery, or that she would of late
Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,
Or hurled the little streets upon the great,
Had they but courage equal to desire?
What could have made her peaceful with a mind
That nobleness made simple as a fire,
With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind
That is not natural in an age like this,
Being high and solitary and most stern?
Why, what could she have done being what she is?
Was there another Troy for her to burn?
For anyone interested in learning more about Yeats, Yale University has put its entire Introduction to Modern Poetry course online. You can watch lectures on Yeats here, here, and here. (Or maybe just buy Jenny a coffee!)
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