Die Heuning Pot Literature Guide
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T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land (1922)

Yes, it's a single poem, but this 434-line mammoth reads like a book. Published in the first volume of Eliot's journal Criterion, The Waste Land is Eliot's masterpiece, an impassioned cry against the desolation and horror of the post-World War I world. It is also probably one of the most difficult poems to read in the English language, referring to thirty-five different writers and six separate languages. Not for the weak.

T.S. Eliot, The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism (1920)

In this book of literary criticism, Eliot revisits the work of past literary critics and, with painstaking detail, points out why they were wrong about everyone from Dante to Hamlet to William Blake. His arguments are excellent, of course, but he sometimes comes off in these essays as the cocky guy in English class who won't shut up.

T.S. Eliot, The Complete Poem and Plays, 1909-1950 (1952)

For a literary legend, Eliot really didn't publish all that much, so the complete collection of his poetry and drama is not the unmanageable beast you might think. There are some gems in here, though—the bleak comedy of The Cocktail Party and the uplifting grace of "Ash Wednesday," in particular.

Peter Ackroyd, T.S. Eliot: A Life (1984)

Eliot refused to give biographers access to his private materials, so Peter Ackroyd had to write this one without quoting any letters or unpublished work. He still managed to write an interesting portrait of the poet, in a biography generally regarded as one of the best yet written about its subject.

Lyndall Gordon, T.S. Eliot: An Imperfect Life (1999)

Biographer Gordon rewrote two previous biographies of Eliot and put them into this one, which explores the poet's private life. She concludes that Eliot was a literary genius with some serious personal flaws: he could at times be anti-Semitic, misogynistic, and cranky. This biography is a fascinating and unsparing look at the life of one of the English language's greatest poets.

A. David Moody, Ezra Pound: A Portrait of the Man and His Work, Volume I: The Young Genius, 1885-1920 (2007)

Ezra Pound, one of T.S. Eliot's best friends, played an instrumental role in his friend's literary career. Pound was an outstanding editor—Eliot called him il miglior fabbro, the finer craftsman—and nudged Eliot's poems into the masterpieces they are today. His life story offers insight into the modernist era and the creation of a poet.

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