This audio CD is a must-have for all fans of T. S. Eliot. Poetry is supposed to be read out loud; it is a pleasure and privilege to hear one of the greatest poets of the 20th century read his poems out loud, allowing us to hear the lines the way they were meant to be heard--and read.
This collection contains a short book with an introduction by J. D. McClatchy and the text of all the poem found on the audio CD. The CD contains 9 tracks: La Figlia Che Piange, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, Gerontion, Sweeney Among the Nightingales, The Waste Land, The Hollow Men, The Journey of the Magi, Ash-Wednesday, and East Coker. The poems are arranged in chronological order, offering insights into the development of both language and themes throughout Eliot's career.
The first track, "La Figlia Che Piange," is one of Eliot's earliest poems and explores, like much of his earlier poetry, the frustrations of a young man and thwarted love. It is a lovely short poem, full of the images that Eliot is well known for. Published at the same time (in the same volume in fact) was also "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." One of the most well known poems, "The Love Song" is a culmination of Eliot's early poetry.
The highlight of the CD is the reading of "The Waste Land." The epic poem is the longest found in this collection, going over 25 minutes. "The Waste Land" by far is one of my personal favorites and I have read it countless of time. However, reading the poem along with this CD has allowed me to shed new meaning to this enormously difficult and marvelous poem. Eliot dramatizes his reading, allowing the dozens of narratives and narrators to come through. Spinning a multifaceted account of the deterioration of society in the early 20th century, a collage of the decay of love and fidelity, a haunting vision of the death of man and his rebirth; all shifting through time and space, drawing upon different histories and languages and cultures, all coalesced through the eyes of Tiresias. Indeed, "a heap of broken images."
"The Hollow Men" is the worst quality recording found on this CD. However it is still evocative as ever. Eliot's hypnotizing monotone, which prevails much of his readings, is exetremely effective in this case, bringing to life the hopelessness and stagnation of the hollow men.
"The Journey of the Magi" is a particularly fitting poem for December and the holiday season. It marks a progression of Eliot's poetry to more theological themes yet still picks on Eliot's fascination with death and rebirth, ending and beginnings.
"East Coker" is the second highlight of the CD. It is the last track and also one of the last poems Eliot composed before his death in 1965. "East Coker" is the second volume in his masterpiece "The Four Quartets." The poem draws upon Eliot's study into Christianity, philosophy, and mysticism. It is a deep exploration of the meaning of time and change. The poem is almost 15 minutes on the CD. Eliot's reading highlights his supreme command of the English language, his sophistication in diction, rhythm and meter. The first and last of the "East Coker" is engraved on Eliot's grave site in England as his chosen epitaph: in my beginning is my end, in my end is my beginning.
This is a well chosen collection of poems which highlights the body of Eliot's work. Hearing the poems being read by their author is a valuable experience. I definitely recommend this to anyone who reads Eliot and would like to learn more about his poetry.