Sunday 23 July 2017

Modernism meets the modern age

Forget comic books, thrillers and chick lit -- the biggest-selling iPad book application in the past fortnight has been of TS Eliot's The Waste Land.

Along with James Joyce's Ulysses, Eliot's poem, first published in 1922, has long been regarded as a cornerstone of challenging 20th-century literary modernism, but for some reason the app that's been released by Faber & Faber in association with Touch Press has intrigued the public, or at least those among them who cherish their iPads and Kindles.

Mind you, the app offers an awful lot for its asking price of €10.99. There's the text of the poem itself, of course, along with the crucial, indeed, ruthless revisions made to the manuscript by Ezra Pound before its final publication. And there's a wealth of other material -- a filmed reading by Fiona Shaw; audio readings by Alec Guinness, Viggo Mortensen and Eliot himself; 37 short films featuring the insights of such admirers as Seamus Heaney, Craig Raine and Jeanette Winterson; plus various interractive critical aids.

In short, it provides a whole masterclass on a classic and it's an indication of what can be achieved in this technological format. No wonder conventional publishers are worried about their future.

*****

Still on poetry, budding versifiers have just six days left if they wish to compete for a lot of money. This comes courtesy of the Montreal Poetry Prize, which is offering an extraordinary $50,000 for a winning poem of less than 40 lines.

A jury of international poets (including our own Sinead Morrissey) will select a shortlist of 50 poems, but the ultimate decision lies with former poet laureate Andrew Motion.

So if you think you have a poem worthy of consideration, then contact the organisers at montrealprize.com. But do it quickly -- your entry has to be submitted by next Friday. The entry fee is $25, with additional entries costing $15, but what's that when set against a cool $50,000?

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