T.S. Eliot, 1923, by by Lady Ottoline Morrell (National Portrait Gallery, London)
“Whether he is liked or disliked is of no importance, but he must be read.” -Northrop Frye, critic
September is a time to celebrate the birth of Thomas Stearns Eliot, perhaps the greatest and most influential poet of the 20th century. From the early success of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, published when he was just 23 years old, through such later masterworks as The Waste Land and Four Quartets, Eliot’s unique and powerful voice broke new literary ground and set the pattern for generations to come.
Even as he rose to global fame and a Nobel Prize, however, Eliot remained a private and deeply enigmatic man, even to friends such as Ezra Pound and Virginia Woolf. “To do the useful thing,” he once remarked, “to say the courageous thing, to contemplate the beautiful thing: that is enough for one man's life.”
Let us go then, you and I, and pay tribute to the poet on his 129th birthday. Author Daniel Stashower explores Eliot’s life and legacy, and actor Scott Sedar offers dramatic readings of some of his most celebrated works. The program is followed by a reception at which we will raise a toast and perhaps even “dare to eat a peach.”
S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)