Marvelous and Murderous: Seamus Heaney.
Tonight my heart quickened with sheer wonder reading Seamus Heaney’s address to the Nobel Prize academy, when in 1995, he was awarded that haloed prize.
In his breathtaking address, he speaks of a time in his life ‘when he finally sat up, woke up and realized that he could not longer suppress the marvelous in full favor of the murderous’. A poet who insisted that the worth of poetry resided in not shying away from either.
He felt and wrote, that the weight of a piece depended on ‘exposing all the horror that is the purview of the human capacity, as well as the magnificence inherent in life itself’. The man had a holy temperament, with a scintillatingly crisp mind. He requires and credits his readers with the intelligence to go the distance with him, was neither pretentious nor presumptuous. He was an Irishman, to the bone, in his core, in every heart cell.
As is often the case when something is too close, it is possible to miss. He was living just outside Dublin during all the years that I was living within. The violent years of a divided country spilling into what we now call the Republic; his weapon of choice, the pen. I, a student at the time in Trinity College, utterly oblivious. Didn’t know or care which side of a poem was up, in, or out.
Now he sits by my bedside and I cannot pretend that I always understand, but even when I don’t, I do get a felt sense that is invariably visceral, a sense of being in the presence of something stripped of pretense, close to the bone and heart of life.
The season of gifting and gathering is upon us. Why not give poems, rather than ties. Why not gather around the fire to read poetry. I would be lying if I didn’t also wish that my poetry found an honored spot under the tree, or peering out cutely from a stocking, wrapped in ribbon, read aloud to friends. But If not my poetry, then try others; there are so many fine poets writing today. One source that is always generous with it’s offerings is Copper Canyon Press (my favorite). Who we read, when we read, what we read is like a handprint with the lines of our lives laid out for curious persons to see.
I would earnestly suggest you read that Seamus Heaney piece, (available on line), after all why not deepen the lifelines on the handprint of your life, move into this season’s darkness with curiosity. May your fireside times be rich.
Sending love to you, now reading this, my seasonal offering.