By Frank Kuppner

Allusive and funny, this unusual anthology is made out of the 1st traces of a set of misplaced poems. Reportedly came across in a Latin American eating place in Glasgow, this immensely interesting compilation of verse is filled with intensity, perception, provocations, and astonishments, and spans quite a lot of writing kinds, from melodrama and sarcasm to bawdiness and outright absurdity.

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By the end of that year, however, he collapsed as a result of a particularly noxious episode of London’s famous “smog,” and he was hospitalized under continuous oxygen for the next five weeks. It was a setback from which the 74year-old poet never fully recovered. Much of 1963 found Eliot in and out of hospitals as his lungs and heart continued to deteriorate so that by September of that year, when the American poet Allen Tate visited him in London, Tate later reported that Eliot was so weakened with illness that he was barely able to get around even with the help of two canes, and he could not find the strength to wave goodbye to Tate.

A new production of The Family Reunion, which had experienced a disappointing five-week run when it first premiered in London in 1939, was successfully mounted at the Mercury Theatre in October 1946. Both that play and Murder in the Cathedral were selected for performances for the inaugural season of the Edinburgh Festival in 1947. Eliot was encouraged by these successes to begin to think in terms of another project for the stage, and by July 1948 he sent a draft of the first three acts of this new play, which he originally titled “One-Eyed Reilly,” to Martin Browne.

This is why, once Eliot is past the execrable racist and bigoted overtones of his first few pages, which are meant mainly for the consumption of his largely Southern, white audience, he gets down to business by mixing his metaphors among the religious, the literary, and the political. Specifically, Eliot sets the reader up with one set of anticipations both by the quasi-religious implications of the book’s title (especially his subtitle, “A Primer on Modern Heresy”) and by his emphasizing, early on, the importance of a common religious background in fostering a people’s tradition.

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