|20201129||20201205 (R4)||Poet Theresa Lola is only 26 years old, but her work has always explored mortality. She's fascinated by our complex relationship with the final stage of life. |
In this moving programme, Theresa meets poets in their twilight years, their thoughts and poems interweaving.
We hear from TS Eliot Prize winner George Szirtes, now 71, who uses his poems to retread the corridors of memory as he heads knowingly into the dusk. The American poet Alicia Ostriker explains that, as she's aged, the collapsing of both her body and her mind has inevitably found its way into her poems.
Poet and critic Peter Simonsen introduces us to the final works of WB Yeats who worked long into old age and strove to articulate the experience of physical decrepitude. Peter also offers us a haunting reading of the great Objectivist poet George Oppen's The Tongues. The sparse and fractured nature of the poem makes perfect sense when we learn that, at the end of his life, Oppen was suffering from Alzheimer's Disease which slowly but surely robbed him of the ability to speak and process words.
Our final encounter is with Sarah Yerkes, aged 102. Sarah spent decades welding vast metal sculptures until old age made such physical strains impossible. Despite being over a century old, her mind is as sharp as ever and she still actively writes. While Sarah remains passionate about poetry, the reality of life in old age means her poems are often filled with a sense of confusion and loss.
Sarah muses on the nature of the afterlife and, having concluded that dying is her next great adventure, reads one final poem - an elegy to herself.
Presenter: Theresa Lola
A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
Poet Theresa Lola explores the relationship between poetry, old age and mortality.