Editing ‘The Waste Land’; An Explanation

March 23, 2009

T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ is probably the most important modernist poem, and one of the most important pieces of literature of the 20th century. A lot has been said about the poem, a lot will be said about it in the future, a lot is and will be argued and disputed about it. There are many reasons why The Waste Land shares that special place in the world of literature. I do not really need to go into any of the reasons in detail here. What interests me the most – the causes behind this project – are two things:

  • The Waste Land is made up from a series of almost disconnected voices – like surfing on the internet and sampling different texts – that make up an organic whole that has an existence and beauty of its own.
  • The poem underwent extensive editing in the hands of Ezra Pound who was basically responsible for the form and state of the poem as it exists and is known at the moment

My question, and the reason behind the existence of this project, is whether ‘The Waste Land’ can be edited further. Whether there are ways to edit and re-arrange the current (and maybe even the original manuscript at a second stage) version of the Waste Land in order to create alternative versions, that “may” display a different character and status in the poem than the one that exists in the original poem.

Why do it? Well, simply because it is there. Or simply because editing as is proven by the work of Pound itself is the most important part in the creation in literature, as in sculpting chipping the stone presents the true form hidden underneath the amorphus bulk of granite or marble. Simply because it is an experiment that I myself am curious of what it can produce.

I am starting this project on my own, but anyone can contribute their version. Simply email me your thoughts and ideas on basileios@gmail.com and we will see what we can do. This is a totally open project, so feel free to be as radical or conservative as you want.

Happy reading, happy editing.

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