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T. S. Eliot: The Poems
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This book is designed to provide a comprehensive and stimulating introduction to T. S. Eliot's poetry for those reading and studying it. The poems, as well as some of the poetic drama (particularly Sweeney Agonistes) and relevant sections of the prose criticism, are discussed in detail and placed in relation to the development of Eliot's œuvre, and more briefly to his life and a wider context of philosophical and religious enquiry. In sections devoted to each major poem or group of poems, Martin Scofield examines Eliot's techniques of personae or masks; his use of musical effects; the tension between fragmentation and cohesion in The Waste Land and other verse; the place in his work of symbolism and imagism, as well as less explored elements such as surrealism and comedy; the relevance to his poetry of concepts worked out in his critical writing; and the criticism of his 'poetic workshop', those essays on other poets which he saw as part of the development of his own verse. One recurring theme in the study is the poetic treatment of the relationship (often conflict) between experience in life and experience in art; another is the relation between Eliot's beliefs and his poetry, and between poetry and belief in general. Eliot in his finest poems is seen above all as a poet of what he called 'the first voice', 'oppressed by the burden which he must bring to birth'. The book concludes with a detailed and helpful study of Four Quartets: here as elsewhere Martin Scofield is concerned to look first of all at the texture of the verse and the qualities of the poetic 'surface', while clarifying obscurities and explaining allusions where appropriate. Both students and general readers will find his book informative and his commitment to the poetry infectious.

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