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John Betjeman's Collected Poems
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John Betjeman's Collected Poems

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  203 ratings  ·  15 reviews
(This collection comprises all Betjeman's poetry. His work is known both for its range and mastery of poetic form. Collected Poems was awarded the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize and has sold nearly two million copies)
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published January 1st 1979 by John Murray (first published 1958)
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Mount Zion (1932)
--Death in Leamington
--The 'Varsity Students' Rag
--The City
--An Eighteenth-Century Calvinistic Hymn
--For Nineteenth-Century Burials
--The Wykehamist
--The Sandemanian meeting-house in Highbury Quadrant

Continual Dew (1937)
--The Arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel
--Distant View of a Provincial Town
--Clash went the Billiard Balls
--Love in a Valley
--An Impoverished Irish Peer
--Our Padre
--Exchange of Livings

It insinuates that Both Sides of the Coin are being acknowledged.

Also brings to mind a birthday card my Mum's older sister,Rosie, once sent me which carried the line: "He Who Laughs, Lasts."

In the introduction penned by the Earl of Birkenhead,
he writes of "the abysmal depression sometimes apparent in"
...his verse "and his avowed terror of death."
The use of humour might signify an avoidance of a reality, or a refusal to avoid reality. Dorothy Par
This was my dad's book and a strange shelf-fellow it made with the rest of his reading, centring as it did upon histories of recent conflict (by which I mean WWII and Napoleon). The best-selling nature perhaps goes some way to explain its presence but not fully; it was/is simply an enigma. This meant for a reading on two levels for me: firstly, as a person reasonably well-versed in poetry (pun intended), it appealed on a personal level; secondly it enabled me to play detective for my father's se ...more
Much of Betjeman's writing took a nostalgic look at a Britain that was disappearing or had been already replaced at the time of writing. I was born over 80 years after Betjeman, however, so while his poetry harked backwards to times within living memory for much of his readership, that era was gone long before my time.

Much of this book being grounded in a time and place I have no experience of, I frequently felt myself unable to really appreciate many of these poems.

Anyone considering reading
I read A Subaltern's Love Song in The Guardian the a few weeks ago, and thought it was pretty funny. It got me interested in learning more about Betjeman and reading more of his poetry. I hadn't really intended to read this whole collection, but ended up enjoying many of the poems so much that I did read the book cover to cover. He has some brilliant poems. I like how he writes about big and sporty women, his teddy bear, parts of London I know and he beautifully describes Cornwall and its coast. ...more
Former Poet Laureate of Great Britain John has/had both, in life and death, mixed responses to his poetry. It was only in reading these poems in conjunction with his biography (A.N. Wilson's: Betjeman) that I fully appreciated the majority of them. His struggles with love interests (male and female), his friendships and loyalty with the Mitford sisters and others, his faith; High Anglicanism, his interaction with Catholicism, (interaction with Evelyn Waugh), love of trains and Classic Architectu ...more
Diane Ramirez
What a wonderful discovery John Betjeman's poetry is! The intro promised that Betjeman is the type or poet that you want to have at your bedside and I find that to be true. Very accessible, yet somehow more profound than most poetry I've encountered, however fancy the language. There were times I'd ask my husband if he'd like to hear a poem, and I'd read aloud the next one, and we'd both sit there gut-punched afterwards. I am confident that as I continue to live this life and experience my exper ...more
lovely poems but i can see why betjeman is not much discussed outside the uk. he captures a particular time, place, class, gender of english experience in compelling and daredevil fashion. but much of his particulars depend upon understanding already the code of a man's upper-middle class 20th c. english life. well worth the effort, but for the rest of the world, betjeman requires some effort to crack. beneath the trappings is a poet warmly attuned to the joys and shames of modern life.
Shonna Froebel
I have always liked Betjeman's poems and became more interested in him years ago after reading a memoir by his granddaughter of her grandmother. This collection shows the progression of his work, and led me to discover some new favourites in addition to the ones I already liked. Whether talking about people, nature or life, Betjeman's poetry rings true and does not sound analytic.
Simon Cowan
This book amused me, made me think, even inspired me to write again after a very dry period in my own poems. Definitely a poet I'll be reading more of. Another accessible poet whose work evoked so many emotions.
Wendy Laird
"Slough" is one of my all-time favorite poems, and earned the fourth star. Some say Betjeman is an unsung British poet. I think he is just-enough-sung.
Betjeman writes the poems that I could only ever dream of writing... his work is sublime - this selection is superb.
John Betjeman is my favorite poet. His poems can be witty, thought-provoking, vivid and emotive.
Jun 24, 2012 Hazel marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I've read bits of Betjeman, of course, but I think I should get my own copy of this.
A superb collection of this brilliant poets work. Highly recommended.
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Inexpensive Progress

Encase your legs in nylons,
Bestride your hills with pylons
O age without a soul;
Away with gentle willows
And all the elmy billows
That through your valleys roll.

Let's say goodbye to hedges
And roads with grassy edges
And winding country lanes;
Let all things travel faster
Where motor car is master
Till only Speed remains.

Destroy the ancient inn-signs
But strew the roads with tin signs
'Keep Left,' 'M4,' 'Keep Out!'
Command, instruction, warning,
Repetitive adorning
The rockeried roundabout;

For every raw obscenity
Must have its small 'amenity,'
Its patch of shaven green,
And hoardings look a wonder
In banks of floribunda
With floodlights in between.

Leave no old village standing
Which could provide a landing
For aeroplanes to roar,
But spare such cheap defacements
As huts with shattered casements
Unlived-in since the war.

Let no provincial High Street
Which might be your or my street
Look as it used to do,
But let the chain stores place here
Their miles of black glass facia
And traffic thunder through.

And if there is some scenery,
Some unpretentious greenery,
Surviving anywhere,
It does not need protecting
For soon we'll be erecting
A Power Station there.

When all our roads are lighted
By concrete monsters sited
Like gallows overhead,
Bathed in the yellow vomit
Each monster belches from it,
We'll know that we are dead.”
“Late-Flowering Lust

My head is bald, my breath is bad,
Unshaven is my chin,
I have not now the joys I had
When I was young in sin.
I run my fingers down your dress
With brandy-certain aim
And you respond to my caress
And maybe feel the same.
But I've a picture of my own
On this reunion night,
Wherein two skeletons are shewn
To hold each other tight;
Dark sockets look on emptiness
Which once was loving-eyed,
The mouth that opens for a kiss
Has got no tongue inside.
I cling to you inflamed with fear
As now you cling to me,
I feel how frail you are my dear
And wonder what will be--
A week? or twenty years remain?
And then--what kind of death?
A losing fight with frightful pain
Or a gasping fight for breath?
Too long we let our bodies cling,
We cannot hide disgust
At all the thoughts that in us spring
From this late-flowering lust.”
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