Jeremy Irons Reads ‘Life is Juicy’ by Leonard Bernstein

WGBH’s Classical.org has just released an exclusive audio recording of Leonard Bernstein’s poem “Life is Juicy,” as read by actor Jeremy Irons.

Click on the player below to hear actor Jeremy Irons read “Life is Juicy,” by Leonard Bernstein:

Audio of Jeremy Irons recorded by Mark Travis, engineer, New York Philharmonic. Special thanks to Jamie Bernstein, author of Famous Father Girl, and Barbara Haws, the New York Philharmonic archivist. 

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Photo via Mark Travis

Life is Juicy

(Written in a cottage
on the mucky shore of
Lake Mah-kee-nak
Stockbridge, Massachusetts
2 July 1947)

Life begins in the waters—
Not the deep, but the borders of land:
The stagnants that nourish the sterile earth
Like a juicy gland.

Life is the seed of the marriage
Of liquid and solid events.
In the coves, in the swamps, in mysterious pools,
Our heartaches commence.

Life is the pulp and the slime,
The marshmallow bellies of frogs,
Their thyroided eyes, their eggjellies caught
On the rotting logs.

Life is the algae, the roe;
The army of maggoty breeds
Devouring the corpse of a very old perch
Adrift in the weeds.

Life is the plasm, the cells,
The fat symbiotics in pairs;
The ankledeep fungoids which darkly provide
The crawfish with lairs.

Life is the scaly and scummy,
The poisonous green without breath;
The marinal maze whose only solution
Is ultimate death.

For Death is the crisp and the clean,
The fine oxidation, the rust,
The spermless, the painless, the classic, the lean,
The dry, dry dust.


 

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Leonard Bernstein photo by Paul de Hueck courtesy of the Leonard Bernstein Office

Classical.org will release several approximately 20 poems by the legendary musician including some never before seen Bernstein poems. A Bernstein poem read by actress Laila Robbins will be released next week.

WGBH launched The Bernstein Experience on Classical.org this year as part of a year-long celebration of the music, life and legacy of the conductor, composer, educator, and humanitarian who would celebrate his 100th birthday on August 25, 2018. 

Bernstein’s poem celebrates bucolic summers at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Hear actor Jeremy Irons read “Life is Juicy,” by Leonard Bernstein on The Bernstein Experience on Classical.org:  http://bit.ly/life-is-juicy_b100

To learn more about the life of Leonard Bernstein and the scope the Bernstein at 100 celebration, please visit: https://bernstein.classical.org/about/.

The Love Song of Jeremy Irons – New York Times

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Click on the image below to view it full-sized:

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Audiobook Review:

Jeremy Irons Breathes New Life Into ‘The Poems of T.S. Eliot’

by Lyndall Gordon

THE POEMS OF T.S. ELIOT
By T.S. Eliot
Read by Jeremy Irons
3 Hours, 41 Minutes. Faber & Faber.

There is no definitive voice for reading T. S. Eliot. His own manner, with its proper enunciations, can’t be placed. He was always from somewhere else. In his native St. Louis, his family looked to ancestral New England; at Harvard, he came from a “border state.” As a newcomer to London, teaching schoolboys in Highgate, he was “the American master.” He discarded his American accent without ever coming to sound unquestionably English. I wish it were possible to consult Professor Higgins: Can there be a neutral delivery, devoid of geographical cadence? The recordings of Eliot’s poems try for transparency; lasting content takes precedence over any one reader at a single point in time.

Eliot is the master of the unsaid. Irons’s sensitivity to Prufrock’s hesitation on the brink of utterance allows the poetry to bring out a prophetic impulse without sounding entirely absurd: “Do I dare / Disturb the universe?”

Like other great readers of Eliot (among them John Gielgud and Alec Guinness), Irons combines the velvet with emotionally alert variations in pace. With the line “It is impossible to say just what I mean!,” he speeds up the frustration seething beneath Prufrock’s genteel front, complete with formal necktie. Irons makes a bold decision to let loose the speaker’s longing, to the point of a sigh, and he is wonderfully suggestive in the variations on “Shantih shantih shantih” echoing on at the end of “The Waste Land.” I used to wonder if “the peace which passeth understanding,” Eliot’s note to this word, was building or fading. The poet’s own deadpan reading did not provide an answer, but Irons comes down on uncertainty with three different intonations. His final, stretched-out “Shantih” injects a strange intimacy following a thunderous “DA,” announcing rain — water as a sign of the spiritual fertility that Eliot longed for all his life.

Irons voices an Eliot who craves, desires and suffers more openly than in the sober accents of Gielgud and Guinness. Their recordings, completed during the poet’s lifetime, perhaps felt the impress of Eliot’s neutrality. Yet for them, and for Irons too, the poet appears one of us, which is to say that in all these recordings Eliot becomes more English than I think he really was. Irons glides smoothly over a barrage of judgments in “Marina,” “Death” being embodied in “Those who sit in the sty of contentment” and in “Those who suffer the ecstasy of the animals.” Here is an annihilation of the flesh worthy of his Puritan forebear Andrew Eliott of Salem, a juror in the witchcraft trials.

Instead, Irons lends himself to what coexists with the voice of judgment: what is hesitant, what feels unattainable and the struggles of a flawed being in “Four Quartets.” A high point is when Eileen Atkins joins Irons in the best “Waste Land” reading ever in terms of interpretation and play of voices. Listen especially to the repartee of a man and a woman caged together in a hellish union. Their emotional duo and the naturalness that Irons brings to Eliot make this set of CDs a special gift.

 

Lyndall Gordon is the author of “The Imperfect Life of T.S. Eliot,” and, most recently, “Outsiders: Five Women Writers Who Changed the World.”

The Poetic Side of Jeremy Irons – WSJ.com

The Poetic Side of Jeremy Irons

The actor’s latest project: reading the poems of T.S. Eliot.

Nearly a decade ago, actor Jeremy Irons was reading “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot at an event at London’s British Library, and to his surprise, the poet’s widow, Valerie, who was then in her 80s, showed up. After the performance, he spoke to her, and she told him, in words he happily recalls today, “I think you are today’s voice for Eliot.”

Mr. Irons thinks that she may have been reacting to his straightforward approach to the reading. “I read what came to me off the page, without much intellectual study,” he says. Later, when getting ready to perform other poems by Eliot, he experimented with reading the lines with a lot of personality and acting, and then tried reading them with “nothing,” just straight off the page. He stuck with the latter. “I just try to become a voice,” he says.

Across his long film and television career, the 69-year-old actor is especially known for portraying historical or literary figures, such as Claus von Bülow in the 1990 film “Reversal of Fortune,” for which he won an Academy Award, Humbert Humbert in “Lolita” (1997), and Pope Alexander VI in the Showtime series “The Borgias” (2011-2013).

Before the reading in London years ago, Mr. Irons hadn’t read much of Eliot’s poetry. Now he has read all of Eliot’s major works, from “The Hollow Men” to “The Waste Land.” Next month, his audiobook recording “The Poems of T.S. Eliot” will be released, 75 years after the publication of Eliot’s “Four Quartets.”

That set of four poems, about the nature of time and the cycle of life, “is for me the apogee of his work,” Mr. Irons says. They reflect the struggle to get to “the still point of the turning world,” free from living in the past or the future. As Eliot writes, “The inner freedom from the practical desire, / The release from action and suffering, release from the inner / And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded / By a grace of sense…”

Mr. Irons says that he’s tried to get to his own still point by meditating occasionally, but he jokes that he more effectively gets there by smoking a cigarette on his own. “This isn’t getting as deep as I think Eliot is trying to get, but what I do is I smoke and I get out of noisy places and noisy dinners and I stand on the sidewalk or on the terrace,” he says. “I can’t bear the constant prattle of life.”

‘I’ve always thought acting was more about listening than talking,’ says Mr. Irons. Photo: Perou for The Wall Street Journal; Grooming by Tahira

Mr. Irons, who grew up on the Isle of Wight in England, trained as an actor at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. One of his first major parts was in the 1981 television series “Brideshead Revisited,” based on the book by Evelyn Waugh. Since then he has acted in many other films and television shows inspired by books, such as the 2015 dystopian drama “High-Rise,” based on a J.G. Ballard novel. “I think it’s very rare that you get a film that’s better than a book, but you can find some that are almost as good,” Mr. Irons says.

When it comes to doing historical re-enactments, he thinks the characters and plot must reflect “the attitudes and understanding of life that they had at the time,” he says. He thought it was important that “The Borgias” reflected the nature of his character, Pope Alexander VI, who is notorious for his schemes to use the papacy to expand the power of his Borgia line, as well as for his many mistresses.

His new audiobook compiles readings of Eliot’s poetry that he originally did for BBC Radio. He thinks of poems and modern art the same way: Both are best understood emotionally rather than intellectually. “I know a lot of modern art goes over my head because I look at it and go, ‘It doesn’t mean anything to me.’ But sometimes you look at it and you’re just sort of gobsmacked.”

He applies a similar philosophy to acting as to reading poetry. He tries to be careful not to overact. He also aims to listen and react to the other actors in a scene. “I’ve always thought acting was more about listening than talking,” he says. He’s now starring in the London production of Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey into Night,” which will travel to the Brooklyn Academy of Music in May and then the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles in June.

In his down time, he and his wife, Sinéad Cusack, spend time at their castle in Ireland. Built in the 15th century and recently restored, it looks like it could be the setting for one of his period pieces. “I like walking, and I think Ireland suits my nature best of all and Los Angeles least of all,” he says. He spends as little time in L.A. as possible. “My instinct is not to live over the shop,” he says.

If he could pick a different era to live in, which would it be? “I think 1900 to 1912 was an extraordinary time,” he says, “and I think between the wars was a mad time and also quite fun to be around.” But he says that he’s satisfied enough with the present. “I’m happy to be healthy and alive when I am.”

Photos by Perou – www.perou.co.uk

Grooming by Tahira – www.beautybytahira.com

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Photo by Perou. Grooming by Tahira.

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Photo by Perou. Grooming by Tahira.

Complete TS Eliot Read by Jeremy Irons Due for Spring Release

Complete TS Eliot read by Jeremy Irons due for Spring release

Pre-order the CD at Amazon.com

[Text via The T.S. Eliot Society of the United Kingdom]

Faber have now confirmed a release date of April 5th, 2018 for the audio recording of Jeremy Irons reading the Complete Poems of TS Eliot.

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These are the readings, as heard on BBC Radio 4 over Christmas 2016/17.

Six programmes gather together the verse: Prufrock and Other Observations; Poems (1920); The Waste Land; The Hollow Men, Ash Wednesday and Ariel Poems; Four Quartets; and Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.

The release will coincide with the 75th anniversary of Four Quartets being published in the US as a single volume.

Jeremy Irons will be reading all Four Quartets at a special event at the 92Y in New York, which will also see the presentation of the first Four Quartets Prize, presented by the TS Eliot Foundation in partnership with the Poetry Society of America for a unified sequence of poems or verse narrative.

Keep up to date at http://www.tseliotsociety.uk/

Jeremy Irons on BBC Look North

Jeremy Irons – and Smudge – were on BBC Look North (East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire) on Monday 2 October 2017, as part of a segment on the Contains Strong Language festival in Hull.

All video and images ©BBC

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Jeremy Irons on ‘Cerys on 6’

Jeremy Irons was a guest of Cerys Matthews on BBC Radio 6, live from Hull, on Sunday 1 October 2017.

Click HERE to listen to the entire three hour broadcast, via BBC iPlayer, until the end of October.

Click on the player below to listen to just Jeremy’s portion of the broadcast:

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Jeremy Irons at Hull 2017: Contains Strong Language

Live from Hull, Jeremy Irons and Julie Hesmondhalgh perform poetry inspired by the city and its poets. Presenter Lindsey Chapman leads the poetic journey through the city. Part of Contains Strong Language, the BBC’s season of Poetry and Performance from Hull.

Directed by Charlotte Riches
Produced by Susan Roberts

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Click on the player below to listen to the entire one hour broadcast:

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