2022 will be the centenary of the publication of one of the most intriguing English language poems of the twentieth century, TS Eliot’s The Waste Land, with its haunting lines and phrases, its spellbinding images, its unanswered questions, its profound challenges and its abiding mystery.
Twenty two West Country poets, prose writers, artists, photographers, singers, composers from many different parts of Devon and Somerset – some of us who have never actually met in the real world – have been reading and discussing The Waste Land on zoom since last September. We have also been writing new pieces inspired by our zoom meetings. Soon we will be collating and editing these for a June 2022 performance and planning how to enrich our production with songs and slides.
Each fortnightly meeting has sprung a new surprise.
Devon writer Cathy Nicholls has given us a Walt Whitman to join TS Eliot on his London walks. As Tom and Walt chatter, argue and declaim their way along the Thames, uninvited voices interrupt, insisting on their own perspectives, their own reality. Ezra Pound, of course, is watching critically from the wings.
As well as singing one of her best loved songs, Marie Lloyd regales us with a poignant description of TS Eliot’s visit to her music hall dressing room. (Bath artist Jude Wisdom sings Marie while Ashburton poet Susan Jordan provides her dramatic monologue.) Elizabeth Siddall tells us what it was like to pose in cold water for Millais’ painting of Ophelia. One of the Ripper’s victims calls from the dark for her story to be heard. We have also been giving voice to some of the literary and mythological heroines who pass all too briefly through Eliot’s mesmerising lines.
Between them, the cast knows London just as well as – if not better than – the three American blow-ins and has been creating its own idiosyncratic London Almanac which we intend to publish as an anthology later in the year.
The Waste Land Revisited project is now attracting attention from other writers, artists and photographers who would like share its journey towards the June 2022 performance day.
Please follow this blog and fill in the contacts page if you would like to come on board.