April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

These lines from TS Elliot's The Waste Land have been coming back to me these last few weeks. I 'did' Elliot's Selected Poems for A Level, and I have my copy of them still, the pages turned a shade nicotine, as if the intervening thirty years was a chain smoker. At 17 I'm not sure I really 'got' The Waste Land (though I loved Prufrock). It has been a combination of reading Ackroyd's biography of Elliot, of hearing BBC Radio 4's wonderful dramatisation of his haunting masterpiece (it really needs to be absorbed in this way) and of my own experience of the 'cruel' month of April that has brought me back to his verse.

In contrast to Robert Frost, Eliot reportedly said that the real poet keeps himself well out of his work. If this is true, Eliot was dissembling. He, his mental health and his relationships (especially the most distressing one with his wife) pervade this poem. He knew about the cruellest month and he knew about standing on a beach looking out through the grey rain at the grey sea melting into the grey clouds.

On Margate Sands.
I can connect
Nothing with nothing.