Jeremy Irons Reads TS Eliot

All audio, photos and all text ©BBC

Jeremy Irons reads the complete collection of T.S.Eliot’s English poems, almost in their entirety, across New Year’s Day, 2017, on BBC Radio 4.


Part One – Prufrock and Other Observations

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Martha Kearney talks to award-winning novelist Jeanette Winterson about her first experience of reading T.S.Eliot and the transformative impact of his language on her as a teenager. She explains why the turn of the year is a good time to read Eliot’s work.

Jeremy Irons reads:
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
Portrait of a Lady
Preludes
Rhapsody on a Windy Night
Morning at the Window
The ‘Boston Evening Transcript’
Aunt Helen
Cousin Nancy
Mr. Apollinax
Hysteria
Conversation Galante
La Figlia Che Piange

With contribution from Jeanette Winterson


Part Two – Poems (1920)

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Martha Kearney talks to Anthony Julius ( the new Chair of Law and the Arts and University College London) and writer Jeanette Winterson about the enduring power and beauty of the opening lines of Eliot’s poem ‘Gerontion’ – ‘Here I am, an old man in a dry month, Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain.’ and explore references in the poems that have been judged anti-semitic. They consider how we should read these poems now, and what we can learn from Eliot’s ‘ugly’ references’.

Jeremy Irons reads:
Gerontion
Burbank with a Baedeker: Bleistein with a Cigar
Sweeney Erect
A Cooking Egg
The Hippopotamus
Whispers of Immortality
Mr Eliot’s Sunday Morning Service
Sweeney Among the Nightingales

With contributions from writer Jeanette Winterson and lawyer and academic Anthony Julius


Part Three – The Waste Land

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Martha Kearney explores the resonance and the contemporary appeal of ‘The Waste Land’ with award-winning novelist Jeanette Winterson. Jeanette explains why this poetry of fragments can still speak to us so powerfully, whilst the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and the Scots Makar Jackie Kay, both make contributions to explore the emotional and creative impact of the poem.


Part Four – The Hollow Men, Ash Wednesday and Ariel Poems

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Martha Kearney is joined by the acclaimed actress Fiona Shaw, who has performed ‘The Waste Land’, to explore the impact of Eliot’s language on her own life and to consider the imagery and the seductive music of his poems of spiritual struggle.

Jeremy Irons reads:
The Hollow Men
Ash Wednesday
Journey of the Magi
A Song for Simeon
Animula
The Cultivation of Christmas Trees


Part Five – Four Quartets

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Martha Kearney and Rory Stewart MP, ( and author of ‘The Places in Between’ – an account of a six thousand mile trek from Herat to Kabul ) discuss Rory’s unusual encounter with what Eliot regarded as the culmination of his achievement: the sequence he called the ‘Four Quartets’. Rory learned the entire poem whilst walking through Nepal. He explains why he also used language from the poem when he was campaigning in his constituency, and the importance to him of Eliot’s sense that ‘soil’ and roots matter, even in an poem about time and timelessness.

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