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By Eliot, T.S
Drawings by Edward Gorey
New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovish Publishers
First published in 1967, this edition in 1982
ISBN # 0-15-168656-4
56 pages

Comments by Bob Corbett
October 2013

I first read T.S. Eliot in college in the 1950s and among other poems read “The Love Song of J. Alfred Proufrock.” I thought then that T.S. Eliot would be one of my favorite poets. Indeed, quite a number of his earlier poems have been “friends” for years. However, when I tackled The Four Quartets and The Wasteland, I realized I simply didn’t understand MUCH of Eliot work. I have tried several times to tackle those difficult works, seldom with much pleasure or understand. Frustrating.

Today I was having a similar experience, trying to read my first book by the Spanish poet, Vicente Aleixandre. I’m just not getting into his earlier poems, but from what I’ve read about him, I have more hope for later poems of the 1950s which I’ll soon be coming to in the collection I’m reading.

In any case, I needed a break. I went to my book shelves looking for something that might just be lighter and fun and perhaps something I could better understand. By pure accident I stumbled on a tiny slim volume of poetry, Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. I remember buying it a few years ago, but forgot about it, and it is so slim that it sort of disappeared on the shelf. I thought, surely I should be able to understand this. So I settled on my porch on a lovely day and began to read. Oh my, I had such a marvelous time and such fun. I won’t pretend to put forward this lark of Eliot’s as “poetry,” and certainly never would I suggest it is a way “into” Eliot, if there is such a thing, but it certainly is a delightful way to while away a summer afternoon with a goodly number of giggles and re-reads along the way. I might note that in the text he even uses the word “rhymes” to describe them.

My favorite poem, or is it my favorite cat, is “Macavity: The Mystery Cat.” I can’t wait for the next visit of younger grandkids to whom I can read this delightful poem and a few of the others. (This very afternoon three of my granddaughters came by and I did read “Macavity” to them, to their giggles and joy. Immediately one wanted to sit and read some of the other poems herself.)

Again, this book is pure lark and lightness. This is not the Eliot of Eliot fame for sure. Perhaps someday I will get there to where I can appreciate much more of his poetry in the way I’m simply DELIGHTING in these hilarious and nonsensical larks. It is lots of fun.

Bob Corbett


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Bob Corbett