the wasteland app

T.S. Eliot‘s most challenging poem has topped the Apple App Store’s Top Grossing App list.
faber launched this iconic poem into the world of apps earlier this year and it immediately topped apple’s listings (for some reason i find this enormously gratifying. see my post on the liberal arts). the app includes a video performance of the poem, notes, images, commentary and readings from viggo mortensen, ted hughes (among others) and even eliot himself. there are interviews with a few eliot scholars and experts (including jeanette winterson, a favourite of mine).

poems were written to be heard and the voice is important. not least the one we hear in our own head and i loved hearing the different stresses and cadences of the performers. each gives such a unique feel and resonance to the poem. fiona shaw and viggo mortensen’s readings made me feel like i was hearing the poem for the very first time and hearing t.s. eliot reading his own work gives a strong sense of time and place and the literary context of 1922.

‘the  waste land’ is a difficult poem (apparently even eliot acknowledged this!) and laura millar suspects that ‘the people willing to shell out a premium for “The Waste Land” app are more likely to be older, the sort who feel they could have gotten a lot more out of the poem in college if they’d only been a little less distracted by the temptations that assail freshman English majors. Eliot’s poem is a bit daunting, but undeniably powerful… I wish I knew it better, now that I’m more able to grasp its nuances…These various ways of approaching the text are enticements to the multiple readings that make a full appreciation of the poem possible.
i fit that criteria. i’m one of those people.

faber wanted to honour the work itself, including the ‘oddness’ and ‘strangeness’ of the poem without all of the possible interactivity distracting from the work as a whole. the reviews for the app have been overwhelmingly positive. you can view an interview with the faber team and watch a great demo here

chris mead, ‘the waste land’ app reviewed
laura miller, ‘the waste land: t.s. eliot takes the app store’

but wait – there’s more good news!
jack kerouac tailgates t.s. eliot into the app store

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