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TS Eliot 1888-1965

Biography

TS Eliot was arguably the 20th century's most important poet. He scandalized the literary establishment with the deconstructive The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock and captured the post-war sense of loss in his poem The Waste Land.

Born Thomas Stearns Eliot in St Louis, Missouri in 1888, Eliot studied at Harvard and went on to teach at Oxford, and though he didn't stay at the university for more than a year, England became his home for the rest of his life. In London, he met the poet Ezra Pound, and both poets took starring roles in the Modernist movement.

On the eve of war, in 1939, he produced Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats - the inspiration for the enormously successful musical Cats. During the war the poems East Coker, Burnt Norton, Dry Salvages and Little Gidding were published under the mantle of Four Quartets, Eliot's philosophical meditation on the nature of time, language and history - it is perhaps Eliot's most enduring masterpiece.

He died in 1965 and was buried in East Coker, the same English village from where his family had migrated to America in the 17th century. His second wife, Valerie founded Britain's leading contemporary poetry prize, the TS Eliot Prize, in his honour. In October 2009 Eliot topped an online BBC poll to find the Nation's Favourite Poet on this website.

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I will show you fear in a handful of dust

TS Eliot

The Waste Land

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