Books: To Be a Poet

SUMMONED BY BELLS (97 pp.)—John Betjeman—Houghton Mifflin ($3).

For a modest man, which he is, British Poet John Betjeman has unsuspected temerity. Although he has done nothing more significant in life than to farm a little, review books, write guides about the English countryside and turn out delightful light verse, Betjeman at 54 has published an autobiography of his boyhood and young manhood. What is more, he has written it in verse. At first glance, this might seem to be a supremely unnecessary exercise. In fact, it is a tour de force of considerable charm.

Considered coldly, Poet Betjeman's life seems anything but...

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