Skip to main content

Notes from Ireland

I was in Ireland for Easter, at an auspicious and controversial time - the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising.

I also had a chance to talk with my friend, Fr. Brennan, who sometimes lectures at Fordham but is also a parish priest. His moving, thoughtful Easter Sunday homily included references to both Patrick Kavanagh (pictured) and Howard Nemerov - surely a unique occurence in Christendom this year?

Seamus Heaney's new collection, District and Circle, was ubiquitous, and was book of the month at Hughes & Hughes (the airport book sellers among other things) - and he also received a glowing review in - of all places - The Economist. Will read it more closely in days to come. The poems I did read were satisfyingly tight, crafted and palpable - evoking the real presences of things of this world - it seems a late, valedictory collection.

Andrew Motion, in his Guardian review, noted (I write this from memory) that while it did not surprise with new tactics or strategems, the new Faber collection confirmed the necessity of Heaney's project - which seems to be to establish (even sanctify) a good relationship between word and world, one that is creative, healthy, and optimizes the best that both language and experience have to offer each other; it is a deeply gifting (and gifted) act to be pursuing, and one that is radically conservative in nature.

As always, I am torn between my appreciation of such stately care placed at the service of poetry's grand tradition, and, an urge to chafe at the bit, and pursue newer, and sometimes less redemptive tracks. Poetry also, it seems to me, troubles as much as heals.

While in Dublin, I picked up Vona Groarke's latest, Juniper Street, just out from The Gallery Press, which does a good-looking book. Groarke was based in Dundalk but now lectures in America. Look forward to reading her new one.

I also noted the new Selected series from Penguin - James Fenton, Roger McGough and Carol Ann Duffy out now - Hill and Mahon and Sophie Hannah out this summer. The books are beautifully designed, and will hopefully bring new readers to these essential poets; Hannah is young, and it is most impressive to see her up there with the others.

I also bought the new Selected from John Burnside, just out from Cape, so a lot of reading next month.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Review of the new Simple Minds album - Walk Between Worlds

Taste is a matter of opinion - or so goes one opinion. Aesthetics, a branch of pistols at dawn, is unlikely to become unruffled and resolved any time soon, and meantime it is possible to argue, in this post-post-modern age, an age of voter rage, that political opinion trumps taste anyway. We like what we say is art. And what we say is art is what likes us.

Simple Minds - the Scottish band founded around 1977 with the pale faces and beautiful cheekbones, and perfect indie hair cuts - comes from a time before that - from a Glasgow of poverty and working-class socialism, and religiosity, in a pre-Internet time when the heights of modernity were signalled by Kraftwerk, large synthesisers, and dancing like Bowie at 3 am in a Berlin club.

To say that early Simple Minds was mannered is like accusing Joyce of being experimental. Doh. The band sought to merge the icy innovations of German music with British and American pioneers of glam and proto-punk, like Iggy Pop; their heroes were contrived,…

THE WINNER OF THE SIXTH FORTNIGHT PRIZE IS...



Wheeler Light for 'Life Jacket'.

The runner-up is: Daniel Duffy - 'President Returns To New York For Brief First Visit'

Wheeler Light currently lives in Boulder, Colorado.



Life Jacket

summer camp shirtsI couldn’t fit in then
are half my size nowI wanted to wear
smaller and smallerarticles of clothing
I shrunk to the sizethat disappeared

of an afterthoughtin a sinking ship body
too buoyant to sinktoo waterlogged for land
I becamea dot of sand

JOHN ASHBERY HAS DIED

With the death of the poetic genius John Ashbery, whose poems, translations, and criticism made him, to my mind, the most influential American poet since TS Eliot, 21st century poetry is moving into less certain territory.

Over the past few years, we have lost most of the truly great of our era: Edwin Morgan, Gunn, Hill, Heaney and Walcott, to name just five.  There are many more, of course. This is news too sad and deep to fathom this week.  I will write more perhaps later. 

I had a letter from Ashbery on my wall, and it inspired me daily.  He gave me advice for my PhD. He said kind things about a poetry book of mine.

He was a force for good serious play in poetry, and his appeal great. So many people I know and admire are at a loss this week because of his death. It is no consolation at present to think of the many thousands of living poets, just right now. But impressively, and even oddly, poetry itself seems to keep flowing.