Begrudgingly Intrigued Teenagers and J. Alfred Prufrock

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

I chose “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot to memorize because it takes me back to my first year of teaching.

A room of sweaty teenagers in dress shirts and ties, blouses and skirts, waited, pens poised, for me to write down what the poem meant on the blackboard so they could copy it neatly into their college-ruled notebooks. Not only did I not know what it meant, but what would be the point of telling them? It was their job to figure it out.

They became begrudgingly intrigued; during their years of education among nuns in a strict Catholic school, they had been trained not to speculate, not to come up with their own answers or even their own questions.

Back then, we had no Google ready to solve any mystery in 0.24 seconds; we were on our own. Their teenage minds could identify with being a specimen on a pin, with a “tedious argument of insidious intent,” with mermaids who didn’t sing to them.

Even if they didn’t understand it, they got it.

“Do I dare disturb the universe?”

I also chose it since I have plenty of Prufrock in me, what with the whole “too timid” thing:

“And indeed there will be time to wonder, ‘Do I dare?’ and ‘Do I dare?’” … “Do I dare to eat a peach?”

So, I forgive you in advance for not watching this seven-minute video of my recitation, but here’s my proof that I memorized the 131-line poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

Messing Up Prufrock

The day before, I failed at my first attempt to recite the poem on camera. Overly ambitious and under prepared, I had my husband walking backward through the yard while I followed, speaking into the camera. As if I wasn’t struggling enough with all those pesky prepositions, I had to keep reacting to my husband’s frantic gestures that I slow down as I strode toward him. It made me feel nervous and silly, and once I started laughing, I couldn’t stop. After making it through most of the poem, I had just a few short stanzas left, and I felt the pressure mounting.

What’s your favorite poem?

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About Marcy

I blog about trying to get out of my comfort zone, completing 101 things in 1001 days (and beyond), and writing my memoirs. My book: Timid No More.
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35 Responses to Begrudgingly Intrigued Teenagers and J. Alfred Prufrock

  1. Nicely done! I admit I giggled a bit!
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  2. Jane says:

    I have such a hard time sitting still for poetry. It’s like meditation, almost. It forces me to sit there and not flit away to the next great thing. Your post reminded me how much happy I am when I can take that little bit of time.

    I did watch both videos, and they were both lovely. I’ve heard pieces of that poem before, and possibly read it, but I don’t know it very well. You made me want to get to know it better.

    I came over from Yeah Write. I’ll be sticking around, because I love your 101 things in 1001 days challenge! So neat.
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  3. You looked like you had some serious fun reciting that poem. Though the handheld camera walking through the yard – there’s a reason they put cameras on tracks for those kind of shots, I was starting to think about reaching for the Dramamine.

    Congratulations! Now prompted, I can think of NO favorite poem – and I know I have some. Shel Silverstein, at least. I enjoyed your recitation.
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  4. Andrea says:

    Wow! That is one long poem! Good for you!
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  5. Bridgette says:

    I love Prufrock. I love Eliot in general. I engaged in a very “lively” conversation with my family who tried to tell me that: firstly the phrase “April is the Cruellest month” is from The Hollow Men; and secondly that it was written by Wilde. Google had my back though. Nice work remembering that poem!
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    • Marcy says:

      Thank you. I sure love how Google can settle an argument so easily like that. I remember my family calling the research librarian at our local library a few times when I was a kid to settle those kinds of arguments.

  6. Alicia says:

    you crack me up.

  7. May says:

    You have me wondering about our future…between education systems that train children to hone in on one memorized correct answer (no child is left behind when all are held back!) and Google to provide instantaneous answers.
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  8. Jennifer says:

    Wow! That’s awesome. Thanks for linking up!
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  9. Pamela R says:

    I’m poping in with the Happiness is… Hop
    I love- A pretty a day by E. E. Cummings
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  10. Jennifer says:

    Love your blog! I found you through SITS. I homeschool my kids and poem memorization is part of what we do. They loved seeing an adult accomplish this too!
    Jennifer recently posted..Why I Get Nothing Done At NightMy Profile

    • Marcy says:

      Thanks. One of my sons was helping me, and he learned parts of it without even trying. Oh, to have a brain like a sponge again. 🙂

  11. misssrobin says:

    My favorite poem is Sick by Shel Silverstein. Good job on the memorization!

    Stopping by from SITS. Have a great weekend.
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  12. Michelle says:

    I’m visiting from Gallery of Favorites. Couldn’t pass you up because The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is one of my favorite poems. Walt Whitman is my favorite poet, though.
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  13. I love both videos – you have a wonderful laugh! Memorising J Alfred Prufrock is a real accomplishment – 131 lines is no mean feat, and T S Eliot really does play with words! Thank you for sharing this excellent post with The Gallery of Favorites.
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  14. Kelley says:

    I’m really laughing so hard right now! I love that he walked backward and you followed. It’s so dramatic. Your uncontrollable laughing was infectious! Also funny? The name PRUFROCK.

    (Thanks for linking this up to #findingthefunny a couple of weeks ago! Sorry I am such a loser and just now reading it.)
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  16. Thanks for forgiving me in advance. I watched the second video instead. Now my cheeks hurt from smiling and laughing. I kinda feel like I have the giggles now. Oh what the heck I’m going to go watch you get it right. You deserve it 😉 I have a lot of favorite poems but there’s one I think of only few words and I wish I could find it. It’s a needle in a haystack. It was a poem about the month of June. I don’t know the proper title or who it was by. It was in my library when I was in middle school.

  17. I’m in three minutes (typing a commenting) you’re doing great. So this time are you all by yourself. I think I’d do better without an audience 😉 I still had the giggles at the beginning waiting for you to crack even though you said you go it right. TALU

  18. Meredith says:

    Visiting from TALU and so funny! Wowed that you memorized it too 🙂

  19. Nancy W says:

    Great job memorizing, loved the video! Visiting from TALU!

  20. michellepond says:

    Congratulations on memorizing the poem and getting through the video. I watched “the blooper” video and envisioned your husband back pedalling faster and faster as you walked toward him. Thanks for the first laughs of the day.

  21. I love the premise! Thanks for signing up for the TALU – I want to see what you have been doing!

  22. I’m not much of a poetry kinda gal myself, but it brought me back to Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” and memorizing that when I was a kid. I honestly don’t recall if it was for school or whether I just happened to like it. [#TALU]

  23. Lisa says:

    I’m not great at memorizing poems, but I love to hear them recited. My great grandmother used to recite “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”, by Wordsworth. it was her favorite poem. I am partial to Edna St. Vincent Millay myself. Particularly “Memory of Cape Cod.”

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