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The Hollow Men

“We are the hollow men, We are the stuffed men, Leaning together, Headpiece filled with straw.” T.S. Eliot

Talent alone will not bring success, chance and circumstance play their roles too. After all, we almost missed out on Emily Dickinson didn’t we? Poetry is the reflection of the soul and T.S. Eliot was one sorry person. 

scarecrow photo“The Hollow Men” is, of course, my favorite poem. Why that is I really don’t know. I think that the imagery in the poem is utterly fantastic. I think that the poem is brutally honest. That T.S. Eliot is revealing the horrid soul the exists inside of him. That he has taken a broad brush and dipped it into black paint creating a masterpiece from one dismal color.

When T.S. Eliot wrote this poem it was between the world wars. The signs of death and devastation are probably there to be seen. There was a foreboding spirit of wickedness infesting the land. The poet thus with brutal honesty shows life for what it is or at least how the poet perceived it.

World War 1 was perhaps the most idiotic thing that man had ever done. It was a war amongst the Europeans to see who would dominate and control the world. The horrifying reality of trench warfare existed. Where two armies had dug massive trenches on opposing sides. The trenches were protected by machine gun and barbwire. In between lay the dreaded no man’s land. The stupidity and futility were readily apparent in every command to attempt to take the foe’s defenses. In the midst, only death reigned supreme. World War 1 never settled the score but only set up the world for a more sinister World War 2.

The Hollow Men are of course the soulless people of the time. They are missing direction and purpose in life. Despite their position, place, and stature they are nothing more than empty straw. Today we can see them in our society too, but first, you have to remove the masks and disguises. The Hollow Men are the politicians, the people on Wall Street, the bankers, the CEO’s. They are the movers and shakers of this world.

How can I say so in a confident manner? Look at the direction at which they are taking the world. Wars rage unchecked. Wealth is being consolidated into fewer and fewer hands while some of our numbers suffer from abject poverty. We can spend billions for war but not have universal health care. Are these the actions of men who possess souls and hearts? Absolutely not! The ill tidings of today are the result of the Hollow Men. Ever chasing sensual pleasures, moving from one conquest to a bigger conquest, and all the while finding not a nuance of satisfaction. They are quick to dominate and put others down but dare not lend a hand, especially if you are not like them.

T.S. Eliot is in one fashion at the pinnacle of poetry, but he is not the best wordsmith. There are two things which quickly disqualify him. The first is the small amount of work. He was more than a one hit wonder but not much. Secondly, his works do not inspire but rather depress. It is the job of poetry to prick the soul so it can feel, to touch the heart with emotions and to stimulate the brain. T.S. Eliot must have been a very depressed person. But to his credit, he did not pretend to be something he wasn’t. That is his undeniable greatness and genius. He looked into the horror of the abyss, saw his own reflection and then carefully crafted the words to describe it all. He was an honest man and that is something very rare.

At this time I would like to share a poem I wrote about World War 1 called “”Chaplain Harry’s Regret.” It is from my book “Poet To The Poor.”

Chaplain Harry’s Regret

By John Kaniecki

Harry Emerson Fosdick as a young man was an officer in the United States Army during World War I. In his capacity as a chaplain he would pray with the soldiers who would attack the German machine gun nest. The majority of the soldiers would never return alive. In later life, the preacher regretted this part of his past.

What I’d done I’d rather not say
We would gather
In the morn to start the day
How could a word to the Creator be ill?
I prayed for blessings to kill
I prayed for blessings to kill!
I prayed for blessings to kill

I would look the boys in their eyes
And fill their heads with lies
And say, “Boys do your best”
The machine gun nest they would attack
And most would not come back

I now walk the silent ground
Once filled with explosions and horrid sound
White crosses abound
Everywhere to be found
Lined neatly and precise row by row
Oh the secrets they know

I too was once young in age
My deeds recorded on eternal page
Yes I too was once the fool
The devil’s tool

What is war?
Once this green silent meadow
Was divided by two trenches defining no man’s land
War is Hell and nothing grand
It is humanity’s ugliest blight
And till this day fills me with fright
When I lay on my bed calm, serene and still
Recalling how I prayed for blessings to kill
I prayed for blessings to kill……

Photos by runran,

The Hollow Men

John Kaniecki

John Kaniecki is a full-time caregiver for his wife Sylvia. He is a published writer and works with the Church of Christ. John has lived with bipolar for over thirty years and has been hospitalized nine times, three of which were committed. John has chronicled his life story in his memoirs "More Than The Madness". Also of note is John's book of poetry "Murmurings Of A Mad Man" which are poems written about being committed in Graystone Psychiatric Hospital. John believes in the power of words to change the world for the better. His website can be seen here. His books can be seen on Amazon. You can visit his personal blog "Turn A Page Or Two" here.

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APA Reference
Kaniecki, J. (2018). The Hollow Men. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 9, 2020, from


Last updated: 20 Sep 2018
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