I take the Waste Land as a day-to-day thing. When a dismal, cold slate gray rain falls from a slate gray sky, when it looks like wartime London, need we say more — T.S. Eliot’s 1922 poem, celebrating its centennial, rules. A wasteland is a wasteland is a wasteland. The prophetic voice of the poem sets the stage, as it is dramatic, for the habitation of our current dark times.
Then the tail of the hurricane clears the way for a gleam of sun to make shoot through treetops of an elm treetops — oh fickle reader, I put catastrophe further back on the horizon, leave the charred landscape for another day.
As things change, there is one thing I know — the poem of the Wasteland, a gorgeous collage of urban, literary and mythical remixings — has many voices, many ways to see the flux. Etymologically, the word Catastrophe, in ancient Greek, fuses “down, against” and “I turn” to signify “I overturn.”
The current conversation about environment, the Anthropocene & impending disaster is different ways to turn our vision. For me, it is the project of expanding and broadening the ways of beauty. Poetry with its poking and prodding stick probably says it better, making forays into territories that were once forbidding but where with imagination and stillness we now can go. Into wastelands as rich wild places, places of possible regeneration. Or fascination, empty spaces that make poets from divergent times contemporaneous.