Out and about last Friday, I stopped by my favorite Berkeley bookstore, Black Oak Books. After making my usual rounds, through Christianity/Theology/Biblical Studies, Archaeology, Judaica, Classics, and Middle Ages, I popped by the Poetry section, which has lately been shrinking somewhat alarmingly. To be honest, the whole store has a kind of resigned feel to it these days, a “get it over with” mood that’s not encouraging. Rumors abound among Berkeley’s litterati that its time has come, to generalized dismay. Regardless, I managed to find a great little book there.
It’s Eliot: Poems and Prose, from the Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets series, published by Alfred A. Knopf. This little (4.5 x 6.5 x .75″) hardback comes complete with dustcover and register (the bound-in bookmark). The paper is creamy and smooth. The sewn binding is perhaps a little too tight, but sure to loosen comfortably with age and use. Best, the whole thing fits easily in a coat pocket.
For a T. S. Eliot fan, there’s a fine selection of his work in here. The editor, Peter Washington, receives my admiration, particularly for his choice to include some of Eliot’s essays. The poetry contents are those of three collections: Prufrock and Other Observations, Poems 1920, and The Waste Land. I think perfection would’ve been achieved by including Four Quartets, but, as the old Mohammedan rugmaker said, perfection belongs to God. The essays included are: Reflections on Vers Libre, Tradition and the Individual Talent, Hamlet, The Perfect Critic, The Metaphysical Poets, The Function of Criticism, Andrew Marvell, and Ulysses, Order and Myth. And index of first lines follows the essays.
As I mentioned above, I’m happy to have a selection of Eliot’s prose in such a handy little book. But I’m even more happy to have both The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and The Waste Land in one such handy and pleasantly read volume.
The Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets series includes quite a number of volumes, all of which are listed here by author. For people who’ve created such great little books, their website is unfortunate. It’d be ideal to have a table of contents available for each of those volumes on their individual pages. As you may’ve noticed by clicking the link above to the Eliot volume, the pages are rather bare-bones.
Nonetheless, I can at least recommend the Eliot book for one’s winter pocket.
Dare to eat the peach!