TS Eliot
Eliot is known for his very complex and lengthy style. He is the author of some of the most famous poems, especially in the modernist style of writing, and his literature is well quoted. Arguably, his most famous work is Hollow Men, who’s last four lines are some of poetry’s most quoted, ever. However, he wrote many other important poems, including the Wasteland and the Love Song of Alfred J Prufrock. These poems are characterized by allusions to other works, both his own works and other ones, free verse rhymes, and an anachronistic sense of time. All of these features became defining tenets of modernist poetry, with Eliot one of the forefathers.
One of Eliot’s distinctive features was his use, arguably overuse, of allusions to other texts. The Waste Land exemplifies this very well. The poem includes allusions to the Bible, specifically with the phrase “Son of Man”. This could be referring to two verses, either Ezekiel 2:1, where God calls Ezekiel to be a prophet, or Luke 22:22, where Jesus is referred to as the Son of Man. Later lines contain more Ezekiel references, like the following line with phrase “A heap of broken images”, another Ezekiel reference. Eliot makes different allusions in lines 43-59, this time to a novel by Aldous Huxley called Crome Yellow. Hollow Men is another poem full of allusions, this time with the focus being on Inferno, part of Dante’s epic Divine Comedy. Lines 15-16 of Hollow Men make reference to souls refused from hell as they weren’t evil enough, which was a feature in the 3rd part of Inferno, and the river in line 60 likely being Acheron, which appears in Greek mythology and Dante. Religious references also play a part in Hollow Men too, in line 77 near the end, where he makes a direct reference to the Lord’s prayer.
Another key feature of Eliot’s poems are a free verse, almost chaotic structure. As seen in the Waste Land, the most prominent example, it seems to jump from time to time and narrator to narrator. The Burial of the Dead, specifically, has four distinct narrators. The first is an aristocratic women, discussing her childhood. The second is an invitation to a desert waste, and then jumps to a tarot reading session. The final narrator, at least for that section, is the speaker wandering through a ghost-filled London. These jumps, while they may be confusing at first, are still coherent within the sense of the full poem. Eliot could be described has having mastered the art of chaos and confusion in his poems, as he weaves these together with his beautiful narratives.