T.S. Eliot's "Preludes " contains a number of my favorites lines of his. Though I loved in college the puzzle quality of his poems - finding the allusion, translating the Greek - I now find his simpler verse more to my liking.

His stanzas describe preludes to three evenings (or one evening as seen by 3 people) and a morning. He describes them in wonderful images and admits that he is " moved by fancies that are curled / Around these images, and cling: / The notion of some infinitely gentle / Infinitely suffering thing."

A prelude is usually thought of as "a piece or movement that serves as an introduction to another section or composition and establishes the key, such as one that precedes a fugue, opens a suite, or precedes a church service." or more generally as "something that serves as a preceding event or introduces what follows."

In some works the title offers a clue: "Prelude to a Kiss," "Prelude to Lying About My Ex-Husband," "Death as Prelude," or "Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future."  In your prelude, you should make it clear what you are introducing, but stop before it is actually introduced. And though a prelude only introduces, it should be able to stand alone. Concentrate on the moment before, the pause or the beginning of the movement, as when "The conscience of a blackened street / Impatient to assume the world" becomes a certainty.

link to Short Bio of T.S. Eliot



Even now, September’s mean approach rises on
your first and final breath, green secrets unraveling.

The scent of something dry in the middle of an April day:
why some men believe they have a soul.

These shoots, cut, brown and scattered—
ask them what they know. Silence, loud as a sermon,

says, Patience. Wait. A long growing season lies
ahead. The sound of mowers drones away,

idiot music, wordless dirge.

R.G. Evans


There was love
That made each moment a long note
Played over in my mind
Like a pastoral horn
Sounding a beginning
As we passed by...

Till now I have aged
As well as the concrete statue
Of Mother Goose
In Central Park at seventieth

But as I approach
My seventieth year
I think the officials
Will see a need to renovate
The powdery nose
The eroding glasses and sight
Of Mother Goose
For nursery rhymes
Require a face lift.

They will say I am a man.
His life is shorter
He works harder for anger eats his heart.
And when younger he had frog lips
And no elliptical smile
Of an archaic youth.

This life is prelude to a foot stone
Or upright stone in a field
With pebbles growing from visitation.

Edward Halperin


High school sweethearts
Into basketball and good grades.
Together for three years after college.
Shared a bed for sex
And a warm, breathing body.
Produced a child who has his eyes and
It’s not clear whose temperament.
Fighting and loving;
(Fighting is best not remembered.)
Caring for each other in the occasional crises—
Like the car crash,
And peaceful times—
Camping in the woods,
Drinking coffee together Saturday afternoons,
And watching TV after dinner
While Tod plays in the back room.

They all said we were married, but not.
An understanding rabbi made the act no easier.
Why did many friends, some family,
A hall, a caterer-- all to make it seem official--
Not diminish our nervous anticipation of the ceremony?

Ellen Kaplan


and thousands of neurons are firing,
like spark plugs in a huge sports car
engine powering R.P.M.'s to the redline,
your heart pounding a little harder,
your skin response is galvanic,
registering a charge as resistance falls,
flushed, constriction, enlarged, erect,
elevated, exposed and withdrawn.
A single word you send to your lips
before speech is involuntary.

Pamela Milne


Dark against light: two lovers
unmoving in a human still-
life out of time. And, suspended
between them, a single earring
with its coil of pearly glisten.

Two faces aglow as if by candlelight –
neither countenance entire, but
each in half-profile: his brow,
her cheek haunted by its own shadows.
Two right hands outstretched:
the one palm offering, the slender
fingers of the other curled
as if to grasp a token, valentine,
the missing half of a pair:

the clasped heart-
beat hidden in the artist’s
chiaroscuro design.

Taylor Graham


As I awake and face the day alone
and listen to the air-conditioned drone
while wond’ring what the empty day will bring,
I find again I’m fing’ring the ring
that sealed our life together. I am prone

to also fondle that old finger-bone
equating it as part of this old crone
who’s left behind with no more song to sing
as I awake.

Although I know this life is but on-loan
and sounds I used to love cause me to moan,
a whisper on the wind can often swing
Tomorrow into view, and I can fling
Today into a non-essential zone
as I awake !

Catherine M. LeGault


We check the heart, of course,
for the strength and steadiness
of the beat
and the breath's own answering
rhythm, the rise and fall.
And the blood,
which contains so many
secrets of ours.
We let a little blood flow now,
as a way of letting the body
know some small knowledge
of the knife intentions.

For all our strength
on the outside, there
it is stenothermal.
Such a small and delicate
galaxy of stars,
a halo around the dark matter
measured in millimeters,
a milky way of fine latitudes,
a constellation of points
connected so we can see
what is there,
hiding from our eyes.

Ken Ronkowitz



Thomas Stearns Eliot - 1888–1965 Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Eliot became a British subject and is a distinguished literary figure of the 20th century. He won the 1948 Nobel Prize in Literature. He studied at Harvard, the Sorbonne, and Oxford.
Eliot’s early poems in Prufrock and Other Observations (1917), Poems, and The Waste Land focus on a barren modern world, the isolation of the individual, and failed love. His poems used myths, religious symbolism, and frequent literary allusions that were quite unlike the 19th-century poems that preceded him.  If there was any salvation in his poems, it would be found in his later poetry - Ash Wednesday and the Four Quartets (1935–42), Eliot turned from spiritual desolation to hope for human salvation. He embraced religious faith as a solution and used his Anglo-Catholicism in his later works.
Eliot was also an influential critic and playwright who revived verse drama. The plays include Murder in the Cathedral, The Family Reunion, & The Cocktail Party.
Once he was asked by a writer if he thought that most critics were failed writers. "Yes," he replied "but then again, so are most writers."