Top positive review
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A modern classic - buy now!
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!