Nat’l Poetry Month ~ Featured Poet: T.S. Eliot


Chances are, you’ve heard a bit of T.S. Eliot’s work whether you know it or not. Ever hummed a tune from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats? The entire show is based on Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. Or maybe you’ve heard this phrase: “This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang, but a whimper.” Yep, also Eliot.

This week for National Poetry Month, we’re focusing on all-things T.S. Eliot. Today, we begin with an introduction to the man behind the poems.

“In my beginning is my end. In my end is my beginning.”
– T.S. Eliot, “East Coker”
This quote is also on a plaque at
St. Michael’s Church in East
Coker, the English town where
Eliot’s ashes were brought
after his death in 1965.

Eliot was born in 1888 as a U.S. citizen in St. Louis, Missouri and graduated from Harvard University in 1909. He later continued his studies in Europe, eventually becoming a British citizen at the age of 39.  Eliot credited his birthplace and his adaptation of the U.K. as his home for much of his success as a poet:

“[My poetry] wouldn’t be what it is, and I imagine it wouldn’t be so good … if I’d been born in England, and it wouldn’t be what it is if I’d stayed in America. It’s a combination of things. But in its sources, in its emotional springs, it comes from America.”

In his lifetime, Eliot wrote a relatively small amount of poetry — but what he did write, is still remarkably cherished today. Amongst his most notable works are The Waste Land, The Hollow Men, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, and Four Quartets, which Eliot considered his masterpiece. It’s also the piece that won him the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948.

Besides poetry, Eliot also wrote several plays (winning a Tony Award in 1950 for the Broadway production of his play, The Cocktail Hour) and wrote extensively about literary criticism. Specifically, he’s credited with influencing the idea of “New Criticism.”

For the comments: What is your favorite T.S. Eliot poem?

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