100 Years in The Waste Land

T.S. Eliot’s masterpiece is 100 years old this year and, in November, I was preparing to read the complete poem online in the virtual world known as Secondlife to mark the centenary of its publication. Yes, virtual worlds really do support writers and writing, even more importantly, we get an international audience to poetry events there which we would struggle to achieve in the so-called real world. Covid lock-downs taught a lot of people that that the arts, even serious works like The Waste Land can find an audience in Secondlife, the site where I do weekly poetry readings with my online avatar, Wolfgang Glinka, or Wolfie for short.

At this weekly event, which has been running for ten years, I read my own poetry and poems by three “guest” poets, before opening the microphone to our audience of poets who turn up every week. Over the years, I have read the complete Sonnets of Shakespeare, Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience, Rimbaud’s Les Illuminations, Baudelaire’s Le Spleen de Paris (Paris Spleen), the complete set of Ezra Pound’s Cantos, Tennyson’s In Memoriam, Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems, Ezra Pound’s Cathay, and Eduardo C. Corral’s Slow Lightnings. I am currently reading Baudelaire’s Les Fleur du Mal (in French and in an English translation by John E. Tidball), Donne’s complete Songs and Sonnets and Billy Collins’ Horoscopes for the Dead. I also run a virtual art gallery, The Glinka Gallery, in Secondlife and, on 28th November, I  opened a new poetry venue , The Poetry Roof. The T.S. Eliot event was held at 2pm (US East Coast time). Come along to our future events  if you can. http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Seaforth/55/156/50

It has been an ambition of mine for a long time to perform the whole of the Waste Land to an audience, and here at my own gallery, I can finally do this, reading live to a gathering of poetry enthusiasts from all over the world. I think poetry reading became a bit of a passion for me after my days as a singing student at the Royal Academy of Music in London when I first learnt how to perform the German art songs known as lieder – mostly Schubert and Schumann. Now that my singing days are behind me, my frustrated performing urge is satisfied by reading poetry….actually, to me, it feels the same as singing a lieder recital.

I was reading from my old and much loved copy of the complete works of T.S. Eliot that dates back to my student days. Here is the opening with those famously chilling opening lines. I am not alone, I’m sure, among writers who are both inspired and daunted by the example of Eliot and this unforgettable poem. Come along if you can to the next readings at this virtual venue.

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