christopher james

Poems and prattle

Tag: The Waste Land

The Waste Land

Now that poetry is so popular, it is welcome news that a poetry theme park is to open. I was one of the few to be asked to visit before the official opening. This was my review, also available in England Underwater.  

You enter by driving through the legs

of an eighty foot statue of Cecil Day-Lewis.

Priority parking is reserved for Forward winners.

New for this summer is the John Ashbery Simulator

where you sit inside a darkened room

waiting for a thought that never comes.

At the Stephen Spender Bungee Catapult,

you will be attached to a giant recreation

of the poet’s braces, stretched back and hurled

ninety foot into the air; please note that 

there is a long waiting time for this attraction.

After lunch, why not try the Walt Whitman Waltzer,

where you can control the speed and direction

of your own whisky tumbler? During the ride

a picture is taken of you at the precise moment

you realise you will never write anything as beautiful as:

I am he that walks with the tender and growing night.

In the Medieval English Poetry Zone,

You will be asked to construct a single line

containing three words beginning with B

while being chased by Grendel’s Mother.

Under construction is Iceland on Ice,

where you will enter a perfect recreation

of the frozen landscape, paired with a slightly

lazier poet and asked to write letters home. 

In the London Zone, you climb into a carriage

which resembles a 1963 Ford Zephyr,

with a copy of Ariel on the back seat.

You are pulled through a dimly lit tunnel

and arrive at a party where a man in a beard

and polo neck is reading from a thick folder.

Meanwhile the woman with the black eyeliner

and leather mini skirt who has been staring

at you, moves across the room and whispers:

Keep your hands clear until the safety barrier lifts.

How to Grow a Pineapple Tree

I thoroughly enjoyed the recent BBC Radio 4 production of The Waste Land with Eileen Atkins and Jeremy Irons. They entered into the characterisations whole heartedly and treated it as much as a drama as a poem; I especially enjoyed Iron’s  impatient/vaguely ominous ‘Hurry up please, it’s time’ . Having wrestled with the thing at school and university, I thought I had it sussed. Listening to it again however, it struck me that each sequence is driven by a different and entirely distinct emotion – anger, nostalgia, bitterness, ecstasy and so forth – it was almost as if Eliot’s compositional technique was laid bare; and of course, it was to be dazzled all over again.     

As soon as it finished, and still in its spell I then heard the Radio 4 announcer explain that we would hear how to grow a pineapple tree on Gardener’s Question Time. It was a strange and oddly luminous transition. Here’s what I learned.


Slice off the crown and soak in mineral water.

Take several days off work and purchase

three terracotta pots; each one

larger than the next.  Buy a litre of white rum

and baste each leaf while listening

to the greatest hits of Rolando Chaparro.

Move your plant to a room with favourable light,

wait for tropical winds, and listen to the slow drip

of the tap in your downstairs loo.  


Transfer your plant to a larger pot.

Watch the rain cling to the children’s trampoline.  

When the leaves become luxuriant

graduate to your largest pot and reward yourself

with a small succulent. If you plant

goes into hibernation leave the country for a year ,

returning on the day you left. Once mature,

remove the fruit and spread wet leaves on the ground

between your back door and the summer house.