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Eliot’s and Ferlinghetti’s Poems Comparison

Poets at all times have been looking for new forms to express their thoughts in literature. Especially interesting in this respect are the works of T. S. Eliot, who experimented with both form and content, giving his poems new meanings. His poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is an example of early modernist poetry in which he reflects the feelings and anxiety of a character. Another author, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, in his poem I Am Waiting, also appeals to a similar theme and uses a non-standard structure. Both authors tried to convey the complex inner experiences of the characters through the modernist structure. Both characters regret the past, but they do it in different ways and present separate reasons for their anxiety.

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At first glance at both poems, one can notice an obvious similarity in the choice of form that the authors made. The work by T. S. Eliot has a clear structure that is reflected both grammatically and punctually (T. S. Eliot, 1963). However, when examining the poem, the reader may find that it is a kind of stream of consciousness that is extremely difficult to navigate at first. On the other hand, Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s poem is completely out of punctuation, which makes the structure of his poem even freer (Ferlinghetti, 1993). In this situation, both authors offer the reader a place for interpretation. However, Eliot does it more skillfully, playing with content rather than form. Ferlinghetti, in turn, assigns a decisive role in the formation of the narrative to the structure, allowing the reader to decide where to pause. Thus, both poems reflect modernist trends, earlier expressed in content and later expressed in form.

Poets also explore similar themes in their works through the monologue of the main character, who may be the author himself. In particular, both authors try to speak out about their deep emotional experiences. The character Eliot cannot express his feelings, constantly wondering about events that are not reality. For example, he constantly repeats that “And indeed there will be time” (T. S. Eliot, 1963). Just as the character of Ferlinghetti expects changes in society but cannot change anything (Ferlinghetti, 1993). The authors’ characters experience anxiety and fear that stem from their inner experiences. At the same time, these feelings in them have a different nature since the character Eliot regrets the past, and the character of Ferlinghetti preoccupies with the future.

Eliot’s poem is full of the character’s inner personal disappointment in his own life and actions. He anxiously repeats: “That is not it at all, That is not what I meant, at all” (T. S. Eliot, 1963). He still cannot express what he always wanted; he is subject to pressure from society and experiences insecurity and sadness. At the same time, the character of Ferlinghetti also regrets the past and is “perpetually awaiting a rebirth of wonder” (Ferlinghetti, 1993). However, he is more optimistic about the future, although he doubts the possibility of change. In contrast to the character Eliot, the character of Ferlinghetti is full of memories and hopes rather than real regrets. At the same time, both poems are saturated with a feeling of sadness due to the inability to correct the events of the past. Additionally, the character of Eliot appeals directly to personal misfortune, while the character of Ferlinghetti addresses the changes in the external world that bother him.


Ferlinghetti, L. (1993). I Am Waiting. Poetry Foundation. Web.

T. S. Eliot. (1963). The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Poetry Foundation.Web.

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