Hear Jeremy Irons Read the Poetry of T.S. Eliot (Available for a Limited Time)

We may have come near­ly to the end of Jan­u­ary already, but we can still call 2017 a new year — at least until we’ve lis­tened to the poet­ry of T.S. Eliot to prop­er­ly ring it in. “There’s sure­ly no bet­ter poet than Eliot to help us con­front the prob­lem of find­ing mean­ing in a world where old cer­tain­ties are being trou­bled,” says Martha Kear­ney, host of BBC Radio 4’s New Year’s series cel­e­brat­ing his work.

“Our lives are so busy now that we need some help from the sea­son to just take stock, both of where we’ve been and where we might like to go to,” says the first episode’s guest, nov­el­ist Jeanette Win­ter­son. We need to inhab­it “that inward moment that poet­ry’s so good at,” and that Eliot made entire­ly his own. The bulk of that broad­cast com­pris­es a read­ing of Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by Jere­my Irons, sure­ly one of the poet­’s ide­al liv­ing inter­preters. (Note: you can stream all of the episodes in the series here.)

Irons reads more in the sec­ond, which includes a dis­cus­sion with Win­ter­son and Antho­ny Julius, Chair of Law and the Arts and Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Lon­don, about the open­ing of “Geron­tion” and the “ugly ref­er­ences” made in Eliot’s oth­er poems. The dis­cus­sion in the third, in which Irons takes on Eliot’s immor­tal “The Waste Land,” looks for the source of the pow­er of its “poet­ry of frag­ments” with for­mer Arch­bish­op of Can­ter­bury Rowan Williams and Scots Makar (some­thing like a Poet Lau­re­ate of Scot­land) Jack­ie Kay.

“The Waste Land” con­tin­ues as a sub­ject in part four, as its guest, the actress Fiona Shaw, has drawn acclaim for her own read­ing of the poem, but the Irons sec­tion of the broad­cast offers var­i­ous oth­er selec­tions, includ­ing “The Hol­low Men,” “Ash Wednes­day,” and “Jour­ney of the Magi.” Final­ly, in part five, Kear­ney and Rory Stew­art, Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment and man of let­ters, talk about and hear Irons deliv­er Eliot’s “Four Quar­tets,” whose lan­guage Stew­art mem­o­rized on a walk through Nepal and which he lat­er used dur­ing his polit­i­cal cam­paign.

This poet­ic, con­ver­sa­tion­al, and per­for­ma­tive radio feast comes to near­ly four hours (lis­ten to all of the episodes here), but you’ve got only the next six days to stream it. Oth­er­wise you’ll have to wait until Radio 4’s next, as yet announced cal­en­dar-appro­pri­ate cel­e­bra­tion of Eliot. They’ve used his work to refresh audi­ences after a trou­bling year; per­haps they’ll use it again to get us through the cru­elest month of this one.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

T.S. Eliot Reads From “The Waste Land,” “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” & “The Hol­low Men”: His Apoc­a­lyp­tic Post WWI Poems

Lis­ten to T.S. Eliot Recite His Late Mas­ter­piece, the Four Quar­tets

Bob Dylan Reads From T.S. Eliot’s Great Mod­ernist Poem The Waste Land

Hear Alec Guin­ness (The Leg­end Behind Obi-Wan Keno­bi) Read T.S. Eliot’s Four Quar­tets & The Waste Land

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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