“The Waste Land” is nowadays no longer a puzzle poem, except for the puzzle of making it relevant for the digital age. Faber takes on this challenge with its award-winning “The Waste Land” app, which was first released 10 years ago. It has recently been redesigned for use on iPhones as well as updated for the latest generation of iPads. It is now available on the App Store.
The app helps readers to engage with a landmark poem that “enchanted and devastated a whole generation,” as author and critic Edmund Wilson once wrote. It provides the text of “The Waste Land” and reproduces pages of the original manuscript. Handwritten editorial notes from Ezra Pound, a Modernist poet and mentor to Eliot, illustrate how the poem took shape when the author of “The Cantos” was editing it. The app also includes more than 35 expert video perspectives on the poem, including contributions from late Irish poet and playwright Seamus Heaney, as well as English author Jeanette Winterson.
While thousands of readers have gone through “The Waste Land” without an app, it offers features that only technology can offer. Among them are readings synchronized to the text by Eliot himself, as well as late English poet Ted Hughes and Danish-American actor Viggo Mortensen. Theater buffs can also watch a filmed video performance of the entire poem by actor Fiona Shaw, directed by Adam Low.
“We’re delighted in this centenary year that more people than ever before can now explore ‘The Waste Land’ in this truly innovative format,” said Sophie Clarke, business manager at Faber, to the Bookseller.
The “Waste Land” app release is part of a full program of new projects marking the centenary of the poem. Faber & Faber is also planning to publish a new recording of the poem by “The Sopranos” actor Edoardo Ballerini, a new facsimile edition as well as Matthew Hollis’s “The Waste Land: A Biography of a Poem.” This “riveting” piece of non-fiction reconstructs the genesis of the poem and brings its times vividly to life through the interwoven lives of Ezra Pound, Vivien Eliot, and of T. S. Eliot himself. VL