Monday, 31 January 2011

Poetry please... The Waste Land

I was feeling somewhat low yesterday -- cold-ridden, coughing, melancholy -- and happened to hear an adaptation of The Waste Land on Radio 4, which included T.S Eliot's own readings, along with the voice of Ted Hughes, and a new recording by Lia Williams. The interweaving of the three brought the poem alive again for me, and as is often the case, the very bleakness of Eliot's writing seemed somehow bracing. It's more complicated than that, of course -- this poetry is troubling, sinister, mysterious -- but whenever I return to The Waste Land, I find a kind of solace there, rather than misery.


enid said...

What is it about Eliot that is so exciting and that resonates so well. I grow old I grow old I shall wear the bottom of my trousers rolled do I dare to eat a peach In a room women come and go talking of Michelangelo. These lines run around in my head constantly. Speaking of poetry I am reading and loving Savage Beauty - life of Edna St Vincent Millay by Nacy Milford. We were made to learn The Journey Of the Magi off by heart as punishment at school.

Parthenope said...

I return to the Four Quartets for solace, so I was delighted to hear part of Little Gidding read (beautifully) by Tim Pigott Smith on Radio 3's 'Words and Music' last night.
' In windless cold that is the heart's heat,
Reflecting in a watery mirror
A glare that is blindness in the early afternoon.'
Perfect for this bleak time of year.

Justine Picardie said...

Parthenope -- thank you for your message, and for the quote (as you say, entirely appropriate for this time of year). I, too, return to Four Quartets for solace -- it was the only writing that seemed to make sense after my sister's death.
And Enid -- how grim to be made to learn poetry as punishment at school! Or did it stand you in good stead?

oxford-reader said...

Have you read 'The Secret Scripture' by Sebastian Barry? That has many echoes of The Waste Land in it.
I loved The Journey of the Magi ... it runs through my head at odd intervals, especially the first line on a winter's walk to work.

kairu said...

I've mentioned Mary Oliver too many times already, and after all the poem which has given me solace I found here ("In Blackwater Woods").

This is by Mark Strand:
Sometimes there would be a fire and I would walk into it
and come out unharmed and continue on my way,
and for me it was just another thing to have done.
As for putting out the fire, I left that to others
who would rush into the billowing smoke with brooms
and blankets to smother the flames. When they were through
they would huddle together to talk of what they had seen -
how lucky they were to have witnessed the lusters of heat,
the hushing effect of ashes, but even more to have known the fragrance
of burning paper, the sound of words breathing their last.

(Fire, from Man and Camel).

Justine Picardie said...

Oxford Reader: I haven't read The Secret Scripture, but sounds as if I should.
Kairu: thanks so much for posting the poem -- it's wonderful. I'd never read Mark Strand until now, which makes me feel very ignorant, given his eminence as an American poet. Have just spent the past hour discovering his work at:

kairu said...

I used to go to the bookstore and browse through the poetry shelves (fiction, too, but that's another story). Many treasures were discovered there, like Mark Strand, and Czeslaw Milosz, who in turn led me to Denise Levertov and Joseph Brodsky. My own library is a tangled skein of intertwined threads as different writers lead me to one another...and that's not even taking into account those discovered in the classroom or through friends like you, Justine.

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