Marina Tsvetaeva and T.S. Eliot on Parties


Elizabeth Myhr


A small study in the poetry of two passionate poets – one quietly desperate, the other stridently disgusted –  on feeling socially isolated at parties. Eliot, young and English, Tsvetaeva, young and Russian.


From Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock written in 1910:

… And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
               And should I then presume?
               And how should I begin?



From Marina Tsevtaeva’s Poem of the End, written in 1924:


… A blonde mist, a wave of
gauze ruffles, of human
breathing, smoky exhalations
endless talk      the smell of
what? of haste and filth
connivance       shabby acts          all
the secrets of business  men
     and ballroom powder.

~Tsvetaeva  (Feinstein trans.)

My work in WA129

State Poet Laureate Tod Marshall kindly chose one of the poems from my manuscript the practice of devotion for inclusion in WA129, an anthology of award-winning Washington State writers and poets. The anthology is now available from Sage Hill Press.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

when we first met

you opened me like a letter


who can speak of what the peony gives out

when it’s bowed down to the ground with rain

infinitely delicate infinitely present

a ruffled white parasol upside down in the rain
an open book on the bed
clean rumpled sheets
the room where I love you has many windows

but the guests were arriving
they’d come a long way they had expectations
you must go now I must stay behind

I wander in barefoot without food
you tell me to get out of the kitchen
in the dining room among the cocktails
everyone chatting it up about failure

where you place your hand so quietly
over my heart’s green center

your body’s a temple window
yellow daffodils sun
no one can untangle them

not one guest looked up to see

of course you knew to touch me
when I was exalted
when I was utterly alone


~Elizabeth Myhr