East Coker (poem) - Reception

Reception

East Coker sold almost 12,000 copies during its initial publication. Eliot's response was to claim that its popularity proved that it was a bad poem. Regardless of the truthfulness of the statement, he enjoyed the fact that the poem could inspire people during the war. Eliot's friend, Emily Hale, liked the poem so much that she read the poem to her Smith College students "as if it were a love-letter from God". Early reviews focused on discussing the poem in terms of its content and not its style. In the Southern Review, James Johnson Sweeney, Spring 1941, and Curist Bradford, Winter 1944, discussed paraphrases of the poems and the sources of various passages. However, Andrews Wanning, Spring 1941, stated that Burnt Norton was a better poem than East Coker and that "'Burnt Norton' is a poem of suggestion, 'East Coker' a poem of argument and explanation". Another American critic, Delmore Schwartz did not appreciate the tone within East Coker, especially that expressed in the fifth section.

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    He’s leaving Germany by special request of the Nazi government. First he sends a dispatch about Danzig and how 10,000 German tourists are pouring into the city every day with butterfly nets in their hands and submachine guns in their knapsacks. They warn him right then. What does he do next? Goes to a reception at von Ribbentropf’s and keeps yelling for gefilte fish!
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