T.S. Eliot’s impact on poetry is unrivaled in the 20th century. Although his work was criticized because it was unlike the others of his time, his differences are seen as the beginning of what is called “modern poetry.” His distinct style was influenced from his American heritage, mental breakdown, and his readings of the Italian Renaissance, and French Symbolists. His unique views of society and literature gave him a fresh perspective, causing him to become a very influential poet and critic as he pioneered the modern poetry movement.
Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to an old New England family. Eliot attended Harvard as an undergraduate in the year 1906 and soon after completed his graduate work in philosophy. He then after settled in England, where he was, for a period of time, a schoolmaster, bank clerk, and then eventually a literary editor for the publishing house Faber & Faber -- which he later became a director. He founded and edited the exclusive and influential literary journal Criterion during the seventeen years of its publication (1922-1939). In 1927, Eliot became a British citizen and consequently entered the Anglican Church (Frenz, 1969).
Eliot considers his transition from America to England as having great influence upon himself and making him unique in situation compared to other poets. He says of his poetry “it wouldn't be what it is if I'd been born in England, and it wouldn't be what it is if I'd stayed in America” (Hall, 1959). Another one of Eliot’s influences was his relationship with Ezra Pound, the man who “discovered” Eliot and brought him into fame. Eliot grew not only from their shared ideologies, but also from Pound’s demands that he stay in England. So adamant, Pound was, that he wrote to Eliot’s father “As to his [Eliot's] coming to London, well anything else is a waste of time and energy. No one in London cares a hang what is written in America. After getting an American audience a man has to begin all over again if he plans for an international hearing” (as in Hammer, 2007). Pound’s quest for Eliot’s success did not cause Eliot to view his coming from America in a negative light; as a matter of fact, Eliot considers his work very American as he stated “my poetry has obviously more in common with my distinguished contemporaries in America than with anything written in my generation in England. That I'm sure of” (Hall, 1959).
Other poets who have influenced Eliot include Dante, whom Eliot considers “the most universal poet in modern language” and it is Dante’s precision of diction, clear visual images, and simple style that Eliot values (Matthiessen, 1976, p. 11). Eliot’s encounter with French Symbolists began while he was a junior student at Harvard. Of theses, those which first inspired him to write poetry were Charles Baudelaire and Jules Laforgue (Hall, 1959).
Inspirations can come in different forms. For T.S. Eliot, one influential form was a mental breakdown. Eliot sought help from his...