June 1, 2014

Measuring out life with coffee spoons (and various other things)…


“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”
T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)
       American-born British poet 
       This is one of the most quoted lines from Eliot’s early poem
“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” first published in the June 1, 1915 edition of Poetry magazine. It is sometimes misquoted as “I have measured out my life in coffee spoons.” Initial critical reception of the poem was mixed. But it launched Eliot’s career as a poet and gave him initial visibility that grew to worldwide fame with publication of his other early masterpieces of modernist verse: “Gerontion” (1920), “The Waste Land” (1922) and “The Hollow Men” (1925). “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” was included in Eliot’s first book of collected verse, Prufrock and Other Observations (1917). It remains one of his most best-known poems and contains several passages found in many books of quotations. For more background on the poem see the post about it on my This Day in Quotes site.


"As the mother of a new college graduate, I am reminded today of T.S. Eliot, the famous St. Louis-born poet who will be forever remembered for the line in that one poem of his that resonates with parents everywhere: 'I have measured out my life in tuition years.' At least I THINK he wrote that. I mean, T.S. Eliot sure never had to pay tuition. His grandfather founded Washington University...Which means he graduated debt-free. Which explains why he could pursue a career in poetry. Which you hope your own son isn't considering. I mean, what kind of benefits package does THAT offer?"
Mary Bufe
       Freelance writer and columnist for Missouri’s Webster-Kirkwood Times
       Some of the funny quips in her newspaper column about the pressures parents face in trying to pay for their kids' college tuition.


“I just hit forty. I don’t want to look up at fifty and realize I measured out my fucking life with a coffee spoon.”
Kenneth Branagh, playing the unsuccessful journalist Lee Simon
       In Woody Allen’s movie
Celebrity (1998)


“I have measured out
my life in little pills—Zoloft,
Restoril, Celexa,

Kim Addonizio
       American poet and novelist
       In her poem
“The First Line is the Deepest,” included in her book Lucifer at the Starlite: Poems (2011)


“What in the name of God is it all for? To fuck? Is that my comfort and my staff?...To cruise the bars, to measure out my life in ejaculations?”
Daniel Curzon
       Pen name of the pioneering gay novelist and playwright Daniel R. Brown
       In his novel
Among the Carnivores (1978)


“The Trixie Telemetry company sells a program to help parents raise their babies by quantifying their little lives, and turning what they do into data...It’s a mere matter of time before we can substitute T.S. Eliot’s tragic modern man, living by ‘measuring out my life with coffee spoons’ with the new postmodern dolt: A man who measures out his life with data spoons.”
Laurie Fendrich 
       Professor of Fine Arts at Hofstra University (Hempstead, NY) 
In an op-ed posted on The Chronicle of Higher Education website, November 20, 2009


“Catholicism’s once vivid otherworldliness had devolved into a sort of rote board game, in which preoccupation with involved scenarios of the life to come became an excuse to measure out one’s life in Hail Marys and First Fridays while ignoring real moral concerns.”
Rev. Richard McBrien 
       Controversial Catholic theologian at the University of Notre Dame
       An observation by McBrien cited in the article,
“Does Heaven Exist?,” in the June 24 2001 issue of Time magazine

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Further reading: about and by T.S. Eliot…

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