His poetry breaks away from all canons and it is based on a new poetic technique advocating an objective impersonality of art. So poetry is seen as an escape from emotion and subjectivity which is the opposite of Romantic Poetry seen as “emotion recollected in tranquillity” (Wordsworth).
That is why he worked out the theory of the objective correlative (used in Italy by Montale) that is conveying an emotion without a direct statement but through something suggesting feelings (ex: The loveless seduction of a typist by her lover in the Fire Sermon of the Waste Land, suggesting the squalor and lack of passion of his present age). Thus Eliot does not describe an emotion, but the object and the action so that an emotion is produced in the reader. Therefore, poetry must be objective and impersonal and images are the objective correlative of emotions. Images aim at suggesting the exterior object which will evoke an emotion in the reader more effectively than the description of the emotion itself.
Eliot stressed the importance of tradition since past and present coexist and past is an active part of present. That is why his poetry is universal, full of symbols, quotations, allusions from various literatures and for this reason very difficult to understand, decode and decipher.
· Ezra Pound and the Imagists –-> to replace words with images
· French Symbolists –-> free verse; use of juxtaposition of opposites (ex: squalid elements and poetic ones)
· John Donne and the Metaphysical poets à complex poetry
· Dante à his best model to compare hell and modern life.