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4.5 out of 5 stars27
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on 1 November 2001
Summarising the numerous strengths, wonders and delights of this collection in a way that properly reflects the scope, magnitude and genius of T.S. Eliot's poetry is an impossible task. Yet, ever since being given a page of 'The Waste Land' to analyse at A-Level (when I remember my initial reaction was very different - less exultation, more indignation!), Eliot's poetry fascinated me and still continues to fascinate; its wonderful images, characters and ideas foregrounding the chaos of modernism in illustrating the turbulent climate of the early 20th century .
Critics of Eliot damn his work for its difficulties - and one cannot deny that its complicated diversions into technical and structural experimentation, mythical reference and multilingual commentary do initially intimidate. The beauty of Eliot's poetry is that it grows with you. Crib notes in the margins of my original copy show how many interpretations are offered by Eliot's strange and strangely affecting verse, and how working with, and analysing, the poem over a period of time reaps rich rewards.
The timescale of work in this collection is also fascinating. Eliot's early poems, such as "The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock" and "Rhapsody on a Windy Night" sow seeds of malcontent, followed by the bawdy disturbing works of Poems 1920. 'The Waste Land' is, predictably but genuinely, a great meeting point of all Eliot's talents in its depiction of despair and disenchantment, but maybe not as fine a work as 'Four Quartets' which appears towards the end of the collection - a four part work written through the mid-30s to early forties. Eliot's conversion to Christianity in the late twenties infuses his later poems, giving them a sense of faith, hope and clarity which is seldom found in his earlier works.
This is a modern classic - buy it and love it!
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on 12 February 2012
This is a great collection of poetry. Words cannot begin to begin describing how excellent T.S. Eliot in putting his thoughts into words, we'd be here for a long time.
The book itself contains the works from Prufrock to Quartets, chartering the motions of his writing career. It is a must if you require the works as they are, untranslated. The only footnotes come with The Waste Land, but even they are brief and require some further research (google should be sufficient but libaries still exist y'know).
Brilliant for the price. One of my favourite collections of poetry.
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TS Eliot - collected poems

TS Eliot was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1948, bracketed by the novelists Andre Gide and William Faulkner. He is a staple of English literature classes and one of the cornerstones of modernist writing. Despite his lofty reputation his language is straightforward, it is his references that render make his verse so impenetrable. Where the references are to now obscure texts like the Golden Bough it makes the texts more interesting, the more obviously religious poems lack the same mystery and impact.

He has a gift for putting together the smallest number of words to considerable effect, usually a rather bleak modern effect. This is a mixed bag, the major poems are here, along with some occasional verses which have an unconsidered immediacy rare in his works. There are some fragments that are more intriguing than entirely satisfying. No problems with spelling or formatting, though the lack of Old Possums Book of Practical Cats seems rather mean spirited, accordingly marking down to four.
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on 17 May 2006
The word genius is over used, but T.S. Eliot was definitely a genius, this is amply reflected in his poetry. Eliot was and still is the dominant figure in modernist poetry, his complicated poetic structure would I'm sure make this a nightmare to analyse if studied, but at the same time is also wonderful to read. It was poets like Eliot showing the world that you didn't need tight, rigid structures and rhymes to create great poetry, indeed try reading some of the poetry out loud, it's beautiful to just listen to. Many will find most of the joy of Eliot's poetry in how wonderful it sounds, and how brilliantly crafted it is, as the meaning of most of the poems will be buried under so many obscure references to things that it will make it impossible to work some of them out.

'The Waste Land' is the most famous Eliot poem, and understandably so, in my opinion, the book is worth buying for this poem alone. 'The Waste Land' is divided into five parts and contains some wonderful, thought provoking imagery throughout, whilst at the same time being flooded with references to obscure pieces of literature from throughout the ages. You will need to buy a set of notes if you want to understand all of the references, but the sense of satisfaction you get from recognising something Eliot is referring to is immense, and you have to read it through first time unaided. (I got a couple of the Hamlet references, that was about it.)The poem is wonderfully crafted and a joy to read, and an even greater joy if you understand it.

But he was by no means a one-poem-wonder, I would highlight 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' as being the pick of the rest of the poems, along with 'The Four Quartets,' a four part poem that is absolutely wonderful.

This is to take nothing away for any of the other poems, this edition contains them all and is well worth the money. If you like poetry, and you want to read something that isn't rigidly written, that conatins some wonderful imagery and really makes you think, then buy this now, you wont regret it.
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on 9 April 2016
I have dipped into the various poems found here a number of times. I have tried various books that have sought to make them explicable to thick heads like myself. Still much remains that I am unable to comprehend. Yet the final passage of Four Quartets has long been my favorite piece of poetry, seeming to mix with what I have gleaned from St John of the Cross, Meister Eckhart and the wealth of Pure Land Buddhism.

Now further passages are bearing fruit. What price "Beneath the bleeding hands we feel, The sharp compassion of the healers art" ? And so much more, on time, redemption, love and mercy.

So worth the time and effort. Even when not understood at one level perhaps the beautiful language at times will open us to greater understanding at another. It can perhaps be gathered that Four Quartets is my favorite, but there is so much more here.

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on 16 November 2010
T S Eliot's poem explores some 'flaneur' wandering like an insomniac refugee about the 'reaches' of some unnamed city, where even a prostitute hesitates to ply her trade in the poet's direction...just as in The Love song of J Alfred Prufrock, the poet seems isolated, sexually unfulfilled and possessed of an hallucinatory imagination bordering on the surreally febrile!

The brilliance of the poem seems to shine out from the unreliable lighting of the talking street lamps whose presence gives the poet a structure to his ostensible progression. Perception is thus connected to these pools of light and shade, with moral implications and existential questions lurking at the borders and hinterland of the poem .

Memory has become grotesque and disfigures all the shapes of the past. Things return to taunt us with their loss of symmetry. We have killed our hope?

Time erodes and returns the past to the wandering poet so damaged that the present becomes infected by cynicism and distrust. The perceptual bewilderment of Eliot's poet makes the final return of the poet to his solitary room with solitary toothbrush, a relief, even if the isolation of the verb 'mount' communicates teh bleakness of sexual unfulfillment and despondency. ( Anticipating Mr Bleaney by Larkin) The house has a 'real' number and appears welcomingly itself in the midst of the somnabulistic, nocturnal hauntings of a man very much on the verge of some mental collapse.

I admire the unsettling subversion of the phrase: ' prepare for life.' How can we prepare for our own inevitable death when we are spectators or bystanders on our own lives? Reading this poem today I could detect Larkin's shared sensibility too. Ennui as a refuge, style and linguistic choice. The resigned affection of the 'little lamp'..chattering malignancies embedded in the daily.
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on 1 December 1999
As the man whose artistic output (including his poems, plays, and criticism) gave a credible voice to Modernism and pulled together many of its disparate elements Eliot deserves to be read. As well as one of the greatest literary minds of the century, Eliot is also important in that the his poetry is consistently well thought out but never coldy calculated: it always remains emotive. While there are few cheery moments, the poems all show the power of the modern mind, and an ability to transform his desolate surroundings into an art form. As well as his most famous works (including the classic piece of 'desolation writing' - 'The Waste Land', and the emptiness and fear of 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock') this collected edition allows us to see the development of one of the greatest poets of this century. While the printing is up to the same very high standards of quality that we have come to expect from Faber (one of the few companies who still print on decent paper) I do wonder why there are none of his poems from 1909 to 1916, especially as they are available elsewhere. While different in style, they would complete this insight into a poet who produced work that, while changing in tone, always remained provocative and stimulating (while at times sickening and mysoginous) and consistently readable. This is poetry for life.
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on 3 July 2001
Eliot can be annoying. I'm an emotional person, and the lack of emotions in these poems (apart from his last poem, addressed to his 2nd wife: "lovers whose bodies smell of each other...") is difficult for me. But still, you can't have everything. These are the poems of one of the most careful poets of any time. Rather than writing poems in the same way all his life he decides to change the way the poems work. The poems after 'The Waste Land', for example, make little use of the famous collage technique. What surprised me when I first read this book was how Romantic Eliot's poems are. And there are some occasional poems which are quite amusing. The range is incredible.
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on 6 June 2016
Live it as well as read it.
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on 21 May 2014
Picasso, Debussy, Eliot.
Not much in common as men, but each represents the pinnacle of early 20th century Art.
This is a collection that simply demands to be read on paper- with a good typeface, Faber and Faber are so inter-connected with Eliot that anyone reading Eliot for the first time should always start here.
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