Collected Poems

John Betjeman; Introduction by Andrew Motion

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

528 Pages


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John Betjeman's Collected Poems first appeared in 1958; it made publishing history, and sold more than two and a half million copies to a steadily expanding readership. Betjeman, who succeeded Cecil Day Lewis as poet laureate and held the position until his death in 1984, was the best-loved British poet since Tennyson. He is known for his modern and accessible subject matter (more specifically depictions of English middle-class existence). This volume, the first American edition of the Collected Poems, includes the delightful autobiography in verse, Summoned by Bells, and a new introduction by Britain's poet laureate, Andrew Motion.


Praise for Collected Poems

"Betjeman was the great chronicler of English middle-classness . . . He was the best-selling British poet since Tennyson, and in time became a beloved television celebrity as well . . . Most of his best poems, like some of Byron's, Auden's and Larkin's, press right up against the boundary of light verse in their quickness, wittiness and sharpness . . . The best of them have a certain charm and may even evoke in the reader something like the nostalgia the poet himself felt."—Charles McGrath, The New York Times Book Review

"Betjeman has succeeded better than most of his contemporaries in narrowing the gulf between poetry and the public. In his own province of feeling he has established a personal regency over all contemporary taste."The Times (London)

"He is in the best sense a committed writer, whose poems spring from what he really feels about real life, and as a result he brings back to poetry a sense of dramatic urgency it had all but lost."—Philip Larkin

"The publishers of [A.N. Wilson's John Betjeman: A Life] have helpfully reissued [his] Collected Poems in a paperback edition, enabling lovers of his verse to glory in it and those unacquainted with its glories to discover them. What a lot of good light verse there is in its 500 pages. And more serious stuff too."—Martin Rubin, The Washington Times

"A neat comic sense, an unfeigned comfort with 19th-century manners and forms, and a good eye for English milieus made Betjeman (1906–1984) both a great craftsman of light verse and the most popular British poet of his day. His first U.K. Collected Poems, in 1958, sold millions of copies. Newly available in the United States alongside A. N. Wilson's new biography, this big book can show Americans what so many Britons cherish: ballads and love poems devoted to strapping, tennis-playing young women; a fondness for Cornwall's seaside; devotion to traditional England, along with an amused contempt for the middle-class ways that might destroy it (the ways in which he, and his readers, actually live). Betjeman and his sympathetic characters, from King Edward VIII to a 'husband down at the depot with car in car-park,' hike along 'stony lanes and back at six to tea,' celebrate Christmas, admire South London's churches and denounce the 'Inexpensive Progress' which plans to 'Leave no village standing./ Which could provide a landing/ For aeroplanes to roar.'"—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



  • John Betjeman; Introduction by Andrew Motion

  • Sir John Betjeman (1906-1984) was one of Britain's most recognized, beloved, and bestselling poets of the last century. He was knighted in 1969 and named Poet Laureate in 1972.