Tuesday, December 06, 2011

not poetry Tuesday: Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney is an Irish poet who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995.  I've never read any of his poems, but I read his translation of Beowulf, and it's wonderful.  This is "not poetry Tuesday" because it is a quotation from Heaney's Nobel Prize acceptance speech, not one of his poems.  During the speech, he read one of Yeats's poems--click on his speech if you want to read it-- and then said of it:

"[This poem] knows that the massacre will happen again on the roadside, that the workers in the minibus are going to be lined up and shot down just after quitting time; but it also credits as a reality the squeeze of the hand, the actuality of sympathy and protectiveness between living creatures. It satisfies the contradictory needs which consciousness experiences at times of extreme crisis, the need on the one hand for a truth telling that will be hard and retributive, and on the other hand, the need not to harden the mind to a point where it denies its own yearnings for sweetness and trust."

(I added the italics.)  If things weren't so crazy (see previous post), I would attempt to make some sort of wise commentary on that, but since even the thought of that threatens to make me scream, I will just hand it to you and let you do with it what you will.  It occurs to me, though, that the difficulty in finding the balance between those two is more continually with us than just in times of extreme crisis.  In fact, sometimes the daily accretion of little, inconsequential, awful things can be as insidiously difficult as the big stuff. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this - one of the great joys of education is being forced to read the wisdom of the ages!