When I was at school in the 1950s T S Eliot was a poet I discovered in the back of the anthology we used in English class. We didn’t study him, weren’t even supposed to be reading him, but, as I say, I discovered him. The poem which most impressed me was Gerontion, from his 1920 collection. It still does; there are lines in it I can still remember, and I can still recite the final lines from memory. Needless to say, looking back on it now, I find it deeply flawed – particularly the almost casual anti-semitism. And I think he overdoes it with the dropping-in of names who may be personal friends, authors and artists now forgotten, members of his social circle. But the idea of the poem, to reflect how memory flits through the mind almost randomly as one ages, through the structure of the poem itself, appeals to me.
So I’ve been thinking for a while of tackling some of Eliot’s themes in the poem from my own perspective, and I set down to write it over a week or so. It’s finished, and I’ve set it aside for a while so I can come back to it with fresher eyes. It may be premature, but I’ve started thinking about where to send it. It’s three pages long, so that limits the magazine options. It has that same sprawling structure as the original, and it does talk about aging and memory, but it’s my own thing, bringing in plants, cosmology and some other subjects Eliot would not have written about.