Muse, benefactor, saint — the poetry world lost Valerie Eliot this week, and it is a big loss.
A lovely piece by David Morley in the Guardian lays it all out: how “Val” proved to be the ideal spouse for T.S. Eliot, how she was enthusiastically engaged with the poetry world and an important supporter of many writers.
She was Eliot’s safe haven, emotionally and psychically. Without her, Old Possum’s last eight years would have been bleak.
Without her, he’d have been stuck in a gray landscape, realm of the martyrs. He’d have been stuck, writing about broken stones and old women in vacant lots. Or muttering to himself, as he does in “East Coker”:
I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God. As, in a theatre,
The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed
With a hollow rumble of wings, with a movement of darkness on darkness…
This moment, like so many in the “Quartets,” is stunning. Powerful. I’m just so glad that the poet didn’t have to live there, in the dark, for the rest of his life. It’s not worth it, even if it produces great art.
I’m glad he found a little light with his Val.