Everyone’s heard of T.S. Eliot’s famous poem “The Waste Land,” haven’t they?
But I wonder whether everyone knows that the original title for the poem was:
He Do The Police In Different Voices
So this was a potentially huge modernist fail that was caught by Eliot’s mentor Ezra Pound, who said (I paraphrase):
“Yo, Tommy. That title sucks. I know it’s a super clever reference to a line in a Charles Dickens novel, but nobody is going to take a poem seriously if it has a title like that.”
In searching for a new title, Eliot essentially ripped off an idea from an academic book entitled From Ritual to Romance. Pound apparently wanted the title to be simply “Waste Land,” but Eliot had to beg to even sneak the “The” in there.
Moreover, Pound heavily revised “The Waste Land” back when it was still called “He Do The Police In Different Voices” to make sure that it didn’t suck. Pound struck and modified entire sections of the poem for Eliot. This raises all kinds of questions about the poem’s authorship, in addition to questions about whether Eliot knew what the %(#))$@! he was doing.
In light of all this, it definitely makes sense that Eliot dedicated “The Waste Land” to Pound. Indeed, Pound probably would have had an aneurism if he wasn’t given credit somehow.
The moral of all this—the point—ties back into what all I wrote yesterday, which is basically this:
Don’t assume that the polished products you see in the bookstore are the 100-percent pure result of the author’s genius.
In your quest to be a writer with a capital “W,” don’t blind yourself to the fact that authors revise their writing after sharing it with friends and spouses, work with writing groups, rip off existing ideas and tropes, run with ideas suggested by other people, and generally seek help and advice.
Realize that authors get lots of help.
When they do, they get famous like T.S. Eliot.
When they don’t, unreadable poems titled “He Do The Police In Different Voices” are probably the result.