I’m sorry T.S. Eliot, Humor Poetry wins today

This blog post is dedicated to my best friend Sara, who has spent a good portion of her life having emotions about T.S. Eliot and The Wasteland. (But I’m not talking about The Wasteland.)

One of my first interactions with T.S. Eliot outside of a classroom setting was in John Green’s novel The Fault in Our Stars. During the novel, the main character Hazel goes with her boyfriend, Augustus, to Amsterdam. On the airplane, she reads “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” much to the amusement of Augustus, who is not literarily minded at all. The poem plays a small part in the book, but it made me smile to see one of my favorite Eliot poems in popular young adult fiction. (Then I cried, because that book is sad.) The point is, despite Eliot’s high class writing, his poetry is still approachable today.

And then I discovered “The Love Song of J. Alfred Capslock” by Aaron Belz. And it is magnificent.

The way in which Belz writes both as a tribute to Eliot but still manages to poke fun at Eliot’s high strung style and content is masterful in a playful way. Where Eliot writes pages of precise craft with copious footnotes for the less educated reader, Belz jumps right into the current dialect of the internet and texting age, appropriating Eliot’s character as lost and confused in an afterlife for the present age. The complete contrast of language between the two poets leaves me wondering at first if they even should be compared. And then I chuckle again at Belz and know that the humor alone is worth the comparison.

Eliot is know for his complexity, verbosity, and the fact that no one can really figure out what exactly The Wasteland means. His knowledge and ability to make allusions to literally anything and everything is part of what sets him apart from other poets. Reading Eliot without footnotes is just a bad idea. So to read Belz portraying Eliot in such a simple manner, with language and content that a sixth grader would have a perfect grasp of, is a refreshing and humorous contrast. It feels a little rude to say that “The Love Song of J. Alfred Capslock” has won my affections for the day, but really, I’m still giggling at how excellently opposite of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” it is.