Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Seamus Heaney

Who'd 've thunk it?

I was trained up one side and down the other to hate poetry in high school and that distaste has lingered like a set-in-stone bias for years and years ... and yet last night it was driven home that that distaste had to do with the teaching and not at all with what was being taught. Poetry, like opera, seems to have become a dish to enjoy -- sometimes deeply -- where once it caused me to scoff and barf.

The cause for noticing this was a segment on public TV -- an interview with 72-year-old Nobel-winning poet Seamus Heaney, a quiet, steady and attractive man whose persona and poetry utterly sucked me in and made me happy to inhabit the same planet with him. When he spoke of starting out on unsteady feet and then one day finding a voice he could credit as his honest and grounded poet's voice ... well, who doesn't know that feeling? And yet it was warming to have him enunciate it in his lilting, reflective half-smile of a voice. Watching and listening to him just made me warm and made me acknowledge some deep allegiance that I generally pass over and pass by. This was truly a beloved piece of furniture in whatever place I might choose to call "home."

The interview made me briefly -- but only briefly -- want to contradict the observation made by another poet, former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins, when he was interviewed on the radio. Collins described the meeting of one's favorite author as "one of life's most reliable disappointments." For all of Collins' perfect description, still, I wanted to meet Heaney, to shmooze and bask and see ... not as an acolyte, but as a deep friend. It was a passing fancy, but true enough.

What an overwhelming pleasure I took from that interview. It rolled effortlessly over a million other fancy observations like Hitler invading the lowlands...though it was soft and smooth and powerful as 'the ninth wave' that surfers sometimes patiently await ... the big one.



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