T S Eliot’s poem, The Waste Land, is one of the greatest poems in the English language. Published in Eliot’s own magazine The Criterion in 1922, it’s a complicated, dramatic, captivating work and one that still provokes questions about its origins – and its inspiration.
Women weave a vital thread throughout the poem…and Eliot’s life. From the drama and tragedy of his marriage to Vivienne, Eliot who shared in Eliot’s ‘horror’ at post-war civilisation and his genius; to Virginia Woolf who printed the book herself at Hogarth Press; to his hidden muse – the quiet American drama teacher Emily Hale – now known to be the poem’s Hyacinth Girl. Each left her trace on the great work.
Dame Eileen Atkins, Bafta, Olivier and Emmy Award winner, will read from The Waste Land. She couldn’t be more appropriate for this evening: with Jeremy Irons she recorded a reading of The Waste Land; she adapted Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway for film; has played Virginia Woolf on stage three times and she acted in TS Eliot’s play The Cocktail Party.
Presented by Poet in the city in collaboration with Faber.
Image: Photographs of Emily Hale and Vivien Eliot by kind permission of the T S Eliot estate