The Waste Land is the title of T.S. Eliot’s epic poem, and it’s also the name of the app that celebrates it and brings the poem to the iPad. As the publishers put it, this app brings ‘the most revolutionary poem of the last hundred years’ to a 21st century audience.
This digital edition carefully respects the typography and integrity of the original yet offers spectacular new ways to explore the significance and influence of the poem.
I took a few Modern Lit courses at university and this poem featured heavily in those. Eliot was never among my favorite poets (I much prefer Yeats) but it was fun trying to get to grips with this landmark work.
I’ve had the iPad app for a few months now and it’s been like being back in one of those classes, but with much, much better resources to go along with the poem itself.
The app offers these main sections:
Poem: the poem itself, the full published text.
Perspectives: Discussion of the poem from a good range of experts, including one of Ireland’s most acclaimed living poets, Seamus Heaney.
Tips: a very good quick guide to getting around the app and getting the most out if it.
Performance: A filmed performance of the entire poem by Fiona Shaw.
Manuscript: A fascimile of Eliot’s original manuscript, with handwritten edits and notes from Ezra Pound.
Gallery: A set of images related to the poem.
The UI for the app is elegant and understated. It’s easy to get around and get the most out of the app’s features.
The Perspectives section is just superb. There’s a great selection of video clips, each focused on a specific sub-topic related to the poem or Eliot’s work. Topics like Seamus Heaney on his first encounters with Eliot’s poetry and on the process of reading Eliot.
You can toggle Notes on and off easily on the pages of the poem as you read it. The notes are comprehensive and very impressive. They’re a tremendously good guide to getting deeper into the poem and understand some of the myriad references Eliot makes in it – to the Bible, to Dante’s work, and so much more.
Readings is a wonderful set of audio clips of the poem being read aloud – by Sir Alec Guinness, by Ted Hughes and others, including two separate readings by Eliot himself (from 1933 and 1947).
The Gallery section is full of interesting images – from photos of Eliot and Ezra Pound to the cover of a first edition of an Eliot poetry collection, to images of many topics referenced within The Waste Land.
And the Manuscript section gives a great look at the editing done and suggestions made by Ezra Pound.
Hardly any to speak of.
The Perspectives section is wonderful but it’s a shame the videos can’t be full screen toggled and are not AirPlay enabled. Perhaps this will be improved in a future update.
The app is full of fascinating and unique content relating to The Waste Land, all presented in a simple and elegant interface that make it easy to delve into and discover more about the poem and the poet.
The price tag of the app and the intimidating nature of the poem itself mean this is not likely to ever be a chart-topping app; but for students or professors of poetry and devoted fans of Eliot this should have huge appeal.
Here’s an App Store link for The Waste Land; it’s price at $13.99.