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Posts Tagged ‘Edith Sitwell’

T. S. Eliot’s “The Cultivation of Christmas Trees”

December 18, 2013 | by

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In 1927, Richard de la Mare had an idea for some Christmas cards. Because he was a production director at London’s Faber & Gwyer, his cards were festive poetry pamphlets that could be sent to clients and sold to customers for one shilling a piece. Because two years earlier Geoffrey Faber had lured a banker from Lloyd’s Bank to work as an editor at his publishing house, Faber & Gwyer had T. S. Eliot to contribute to the series.

Named for Shakespeare’s sprite, the Ariel poems each addressed the Christmas holiday or a seasonal theme. G. K. Chesterton, Thomas Hardy, D. H. Lawrence, Siegfried Sassoon, Vita Sackville-West, Edith Sitwell, and W. B. Yeats all contributed. The Ariel series followed a strict formula: identical cardboard bindings; title, illustrator, author, and occasionally an illustration on the cover; and two interior sheets folded to make four pages. The first page repeated the title information; the following three featured the poem and an original illustration.

T. S. Eliot wrote six poems for the series: “The Journey of the Magi” (1927), “A Song for Simeon” (1928), “Animula” (1929), “Marina” (1930), “Triumphal March” (1931), and, later when the series was revived, “The Cultivation of Christmas Trees” (1954). Only thirty-four lines long, that final poem is like a whisper in the whirlwind of dramatic plays and long poems that characterize most of Eliot’s later work. “The Cultivation of Christmas Trees” came decades after “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (1917) and The Waste Land (1922), years after Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (1939) and The Four Quartets (1943).

I think of Eliot’s Christmas trees every year around this time: when firs, pines, and spruces appear in living rooms, storefronts, and town squares around the country. Eliot wrote the poem when he was sixty-six years old. His voice is wizened, yet wistful as he reaches through all the years of his life to recover “the spirit of wonder” from his earliest Christmases. Though formal and serious, the poem seems almost saccharine when compared to his earlier work. It will surprise many that the poet of fragments and ruins eventually turned his attention to the pretty packages and bright lights of Christmas. Read More »

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December

December 2, 2013 | by

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Image via Papergreat

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” —Edith Sitwell

 

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Through a Cloud

July 16, 2012 | by

Self portrait by (Maurice) Denton Welch, oil on hardboard, circa 1940-1942, National Portrait Gallery.

When I was twenty, I traveled to London to study for a year at University College. It was shortly after 9/11 and the flight was so empty that I was able to lie down across four seats and sleep. My dorm turned out to be a dreary, brutalist, self-catered affair in Camden Town, and it would take me a while to work out that the pervasive gloom that dogged me day in and out was a product not of my environs but of the onset of the clinical depression which I would not have diagnosed and treated for another two years.

I’m sure I romanticized my former self during this time, but I knew I had changed. I had always taken pleasure in a thousand small things every day: a good cup of coffee, a furious baby, a funny typo, a teenager who couldn’t smoke a cigarette properly, a bizarre exchange on the subway, the fact that neck ties serve no practical function. Read More »

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On the Shelf

September 28, 2011 | by

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A cultural news roundup.

  • Jewish poet and novelist Emanuel Litvinoff has died at the age of ninety-six.
  • Here, he reads his poem “T. S. Eliot.”
  • A new Bloomsbury imprint will digitally revive out-of-print titles by Edith Sitwell, Cecil Day-Lewis, and Monica Dickens, among others.
  • Julian Assange’s memoir, due to  lackluster sales, may soon be out of print. It’s sold fewer than 700 copies.
  • Michael Moore tries to pull his memoir from “murderous Georgia” following the execution of Troy Davis.
  • Reviewers vs. Bloggers.
  • Stephen King gives fans a taste of The Shining sequel.
  • Le fin dAsterix.
  • The return of The BFG.
  • The sex life of H. G. Wells.
  • Between a rock and a hard place.
  • A visual history of book references in The Simpsons.
  • Bentley was, however, no ass.”
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