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Heaney Agonistes

[»»] Jeffrey Side: The Dissembling Poet: Seamus Heaney and the Avant-garde

[»»] Rob Stanton: ‘A shy soul fretting and all that ’: Heaney, Prynne and Brands of Uncertainty

[»»] The Group in Belfast, 1960s
(Seamus Heaney: The Early Years)

Letters to the Editor from: [»»] Ira Lightman; [»»] John Muckle; [»»] J.P. Craig; [»»] Jamie McKendrick; [»»] David Latané; [»»] Aidan Semmens; [»»] Ira Lightman (2); [»»] Jamie McKendrick (2); [»»] Ira Lightman (3); [»»] Desmond Swords; [»»] Todd Swift and Jeffrey Side; [»»] Jeffrey Side, reply to Desmond Swords; [»»] Jamie McKendrick (3); [»»] Ira Lightman (4); [»»] Jeffrey Side responds to Ira Lightman; [»»] Jeffrey Side responds to Jamie McKendrick; [»»] From Desmond Swords, 2009-04-07; [»»] From Jamie McKendrick, 2009-04-09; [»»] Jeffrey Side responds to Jamie McKendrick; [»»] Andrew Boobier

To send a letter to the editor, click here: [»»]. I would prefer not to change what is published here; if you have second thoughts, please send a second letter.

Ira Lightman

On Seamus Heaney

Letter to the Editor: 2009-03-25

Hi Jacket

Jeff Side is the right person to lead a response to the O’Driscoll interview with Heaney. Many poets are simply intimidated by the breadth of vision for a poet implied in the O’Driscoll questions (to which Heaney’s answers, and Heaney’s own practice post -1975 to be generous, are no response). Jeff Side has an active, ambitious interest, a frustration and a self-frustration under the glare of the intimidation. Many others crack giggly, nervous, sometimes very funny, jokes.

For my part, I have been circulating the questions from the interview, as a questionnaire to poets I know. Only a few have replied. Yet many of the questions are ones a poet should ask.

What I mark, sociologically, about the Blairitely-political Heaney here is that now that Prynne has been marketed by Bloodaxe, Prynne’s work cannot simply be dismissed. It is notable that a poem by Prynne hovers over Heaney’s answer, a counter-intimidation, a presence of language style. The Language Writers, namechecked with the usual insouciance, do not really exist as poets of poems here, they are the bogeyman of the bigot.

But something has shifted, in Heaney’s canny ear for the narrow paddock of UK and Irish poetry-reading opinion, and there is excitement for the reader, terror for Heaney, in the thought that neo-Georgian poetry cannot go on, cannot be writing new poems now, in earnest, with the same insouciance as heretofore. The thought of political legitimacy for Prynnites as much as for Heaneyites, and for some in a fringe-like feelers-out-for-the-future way reading the Language Writers and (unmentioned here) the Modernist contemporaries of the neo-Georgians, ghosts this moment.

Political efficacy (vote for me, buy my book) is all about having carrying a certain gravitas of applying counter-intuitive theoretical earnest with just a touch of demagoguery, while having a strength in being, if Blair, at least not son of Blair with no theoetical earnest and a borrowed coat of many colours.

V best

(Ira Lightman)

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