Thursday, April 16, 2009

Seamus Heaney on Recession and Heroism

MONDAY marked seamus heaney's 70th birthday. i know this blog is in danger of drowning in a sea of green -- between morrissey and john lennon, both of irish descent, oscar wilde's poll position, and st. patrick's day, i am flying the celtic flag high.

but let me discuss the nobel-winning irishman for a second. i am sympathetic to the argument that heaney ceased being a great poet when he became, in the eyes of the world, a charming irish sage... he has done no single book of poems quite as tough as "north" for decades now.

but his translation of "beowulf" was terrific. i had the pleasure of speaking to him a few years back for this slate piece about the anglo-saxon epic, heroism and the sound of poetry in general. in fact, his essay "england of the mind," on the way larkin, hughes and geoffrey hill each use a different version (with respective historical and religious echoes) of english in their work is one of the best things i've ever read on the art.

tim rutten, LAT columnist and irishman himself, offers this fine column on how heaney and his work inform our present slumping moment. in barest form, heaney suggests fortifying one's inner life to survive life's ups and downs -- the latter a subject the irish know well, especially with death of the celtic tiger.   
i'll look forward to going back to the man's poetry and essays this week. 

enthusiasts of heaney's work should also know of this very extensive fan site.

anyone have a fave heaney poem with which to toast the man's 70th?

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