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How Can We Form a Modern Response to TS Eliot’s The Waste Land? Yomi Sode

Here + There

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Poet Yomi Sode joins us to discuss his poem People Watching, which was written in response to TS Eliot's iconic poem The Waste Land, whose centenary we celebrated in 2022.

In 2022, we marked the centenary of TS Eliot’s The Waste Land. Ushering in a new age of modernism, this remarkable work was written against the backdrop of a despairing postwar society.

The Here + There project saw Bristol Ideas collaborate with Ake Arts and Book Festival and Toronto International Festival of Authors to mark the centenary of this epic poem. 12 poets were commissioned to respond to The Waste Land in whatever way they saw fit, with four from Nigeria, four from Canada and four from the UK. 

One of these poets was Yomi Sode, whose poem People Watchinguses everyday interactions and potential tensions between different societal groups in a train station to explore the concepts of empathy, entitlement when archetypal figures come into contact with one another. Lyra Bristol Poetry Festival’s co-director Danny Pandolfi spoke to some about some of the dominant themes of the poem and his process of responding to The Waste Land. 

‘How do I speak to something that speaks to the now without trying to replicate The Waste Land?’, asks Sode. This was the question at the forefront of his mind when he was writing the poem, exploring empathy, morality and collective trauma. 

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Yomi Sode’s debut collection, Manorism, is published by Penguin. 

You can read Yomi Sode’s People Watching – as well as all the other poems commissioned as part of the Here + There project in our Here + There: The Waste Land zine.

Yomi Sode is an award-winning Nigerian British writer. He is a recipient of the 2019 Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship and was shortlisted for The Brunel International African Poetry Prize 2021. He has been published in magazines such as The Poetry ReviewRialto MagazineBath Magg and Magma. He is a performer, facilitator, a member of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen and a Complete Works alumnus. His debut collection, Manorism, is published by Penguin Press.

Danny ‘Craft-D’ Pandolfi is a rapper, poet, event producer and educator. He is also the founder of acclaimed South West poetry event organisation and talent development platform Raise the Bar. He has facilitated poetry, spoken word and rap talks and workshops in schools across the South West, and has performed at Ministry of Sound London, 02 Academy Bristol, Camp Bestival, Blissfields, Shambala, Cheltenham Literature Festival, Ledbury Poetry Festival and more. His debut rap single charted #1 on UK Hip-Hop iTunes.

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