Young Eliot: From St. Louis to The Waste Land

Michael Thurston at The Hudson Review:

Of most interest to us, the readers of Eliot’s poetry, is the writing of verse for which he somehow found the time and energy. The early drama in Crawford’s account is Eliot’s composition of “The Hollow Men” and “Ash Wednesday” out of his struggles with the frailty of the body (exemplified in Vivien’s constant and severe intestinal illness and his own frequent bouts of flu and bronchitis) and the soul (tormented by shame over the body’s needs and failures, including the repeated fall into sexual guilt). Tormented, Eliot turned to an array of cultural resources. While Baudelaire and Dante continued to inform his thinking, they were joined now by an increasing interest in the theatre, especially the non-naturalistic modes available in puppetry, ballet, and mechanistic work. The poetry of other languages and the suspension of access to meaning entailed in the act of translation helped him to incorporate estrangement into his own poems; Eliot’s labor on a translation of Saint-John Perse’s Anabasis shaped the lines and phrases of his work of the mid-1920s. But the cultural resources Eliot brought to the processing of pain were not limited to the literary.

more here.