Fri, 28 Apr 2023 19:00 - 21:15

Lit Fest: The Waste Land; A Double Bill - The Poem & The City (In person & online)

As the ‘cruellest month’ draws to a close, we’re celebrating one of the most important and influential poems ever written, TS Eliot’s The Waste Land, on the centenary of its publication in book form by the Hogarth Press. An integral part of our history, Eliot, a former President of The London Library, once auctioned a manuscript of the poem to save the Library from closure. Now, on our own anniversary, Eliot’s iconic words will ring out through the Reading Room, once again in, this very special double bill. 


Part I: The Poem @ 7pm

The evening will begin in the ‘violet hour’, with a stirring performance of the poem by award-winning, internationally acclaimed poet and novelist Ben Okri, accompanied by contemporary dancer Charlotte Jarvis

Ben Okri  is a novelist, short story writer, poet, playwright, and essayist. He is author of more than eighteen books including the internationally bestselling Booker Prize-winning novel The Famished Road and Astonishing the Gods, which was selected as one of the BBC’s ‘100 novels that shaped our world' in 2019. His most recent books are a short story collection Prayer for the Living, a poetry collection A Fire in My Head and children’s fiction Every Leaf a Hallelujah

Charlotte Jarvis is a choreographer and dance activist, trained in classical ballet at London Studio centre. She was a contemporary dancer with Ballet Nurnberg, Germany. She teaches ballet, contemporary and Scaravelli inspired yoga throughout the UK. Charlotte has performed and collaborated with Ben Okri in India, Italy, Scotland and London. 


Part II: The City @ 8pm

In the second half of the evening, we’ll explore The Waste Land as a polyphonic, London poem, weaving our way through the ‘Unreal City’ via the words and voices of some of the best contemporary poets writing about London today. Jay BernardWill HarrisDaljit NagraRichard ScottHannah Sullivan and compere Sophie Herxheimer perform their own odes to the city and their favourites by other poets, with music from singer/songwriter/scholar Polly Paulusma and featuring tarot cards created by Sophie Herxheimer (channelling Madame Sosostris). 

Jay Bernard is a writer, film programmer and archivist. Their first poetry collection Surge, based on the New Cross Fire archives, won the Ted Hughes Award 2017. They are the author of three pamphlets, The Red and Yellow NothingEnglish Breakfast and Your Sign is Cuckoo, Girl and their award-winning short film Something Said has screened in the UK and internationally. 

Will Harris’s debut poetry book Rendang was a Poetry Book Society Choice, shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize and won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. He co-edited the Spring 2020 issue of The Poetry Review with Mary Jean Chan, has collaborated with the artist Aisha Farr and helps facilitate the Southbank New Poets Collective with Vanessa Kisuule. His second book of poems, Brother Poem, was published this year. 

Sophie Herxheimer is an artist and poet. Her work has been shown at Tate Modern, the Thames festival, the sea-front at Margate and Mrs Beeton’s grave. Her collection Velkom to Inklandt was Poetry Book of the Month in the Observer, and a Sunday Times Book of the Year. Her book , 60 Lovers to Make and Do, was a TLS Book of the Year and her latest collection is  INDEX, a box of 78 collage poems, published as a deck of prophetic cards.  

Daljit Nagra’s poetry collections include Look We Have Coming to Dover!Ramayana and British Museum. He has won the Forward Prize for Best Individual Poem and Best First Book, the South Bank Show Decibel Award and the Cholmondeley Award. He is Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University, Chair of the Royal Society of Literature and, as the inaugural Poet-in-Residence for Radio 4 & 4 Extra, he presents the weekly Poetry Extra. 

Richard Scott's first book Soho was a Gay’s the Word book of the year and shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot prize. Recent works include ‘Still Life with Rose’ in the Spring issue of Poetry Review and ‘love version of’ in 100 Queer Poems . Richard’s poetry has been translated into German and French. He is a lecturer in creative writing at Goldsmiths, University of London where he also runs a poetry reading group, and he teaches poetry at the Faber Academy. 

Hannah Sullivan's debut collection, Three Poems won the TS Eliot Prize and the inaugural John Pollard International Poetry Prize. Her latest collection, Was It for This, was published this year to critical acclaim. Her study of modernist writing, The Work of Revision, was published in 2013 and awarded the Rose Mary Crawshay Prize by the British Academy. She is an Associate Professor of English at New College, Oxford. 

Polly Paulusma recorded her debut album ‘Scissors In My Pocket’ in her garden shed, was immediately signed, touring internationally with the likes of Bob Dylan, Coldplay and Marianne Faithfull. She has since released nine albums including the recent ‘Invisible Music: folk songs that influenced Angela Carter’ and ‘The Pivot on the Which The World Turns. She has PhD on the influence of Angela Carter’s 1960s folk singing on her prose writing and she is the founder of indie-folk label Wild Sound. 

Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and Fondation Jan Michalski

Books by all festival contributors are available to buy from our partner bookshop Hatchards.

N.B. This event will take place in person at The London Library and will be livestreamed. If you are joining us in person, please see our  Event Access and COVID Guidelines before you arrive. Doors (and the bar) open at 6.30pm for a 7pm start. The livestream will begin on YouTube from 7pm respectively and will be available to watch live or at any time after the event, using the same link.  

If you purchase an online ticket, you will be sent a viewing link 24 hours before the event begins. If you do not receive a link, please check your junk mail or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

Access all Lit Fest events online with The London Library Lit Fest Online Pass. You may also be interested in In Pursuit of Poetic Gems - Workshop with Sophie Herxheimer (In person)

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