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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: 20099-03-31

Dear Jacket

I greatly appreciate the tone of this 2nd letter from Jamie McKendrick. To attempt to reach him in his confusion, I shall explain that I took his phrase “And why should severe difficulties in writing a single coherent sentence be an obstacle to judging the supposed intricacies of poetry?” as an implication that he thought me a sad loser. Oops. Silly me. Rules of common English say that tries to make me one who will find it severely difficult not to lose at the attempt, ever, to write a single coherent sentence.

To state something else clearly, I don’t (mean to) second any insults to Heaney. It is to honour Heaney, something I like in him and in myself, to say he is skilled in casuistry. It may not be so for Jeff Side. If it were applied to all Movement poets, or Longley, or Gunn, or Hughes, or Larkin, or Davie, I would say pish! I love those poets, in lots of ways. I don’t think I’d feel insulted on their behalf, though.

Calm down, Jamie McKendrick. Heaney himself speaks of how "whatever you say say nothing” is an acceptable strategy, if you are getting something materially or spiritually done, and navigating prejudice. Cardinal Newman was also fond of defending his own cryptic style as not throwing pearls before swine. Such is politics. I’m interested in effects of style, and saying things to mollify, to steer through troubled waters. My own angst in writing my own letter is that one can barely mention with any approbation Tony Blair, whom, as I’ve said, I admire. I had to go through some convolutions to show my process of reconciling some of the communities I pass through with that point. I don’t agree with John Muckle that Heaney recognizes Prynne as a serious poet, but live and let live. I would ask: is all assertion that’s wild also defensive? And is wild assertion a mark of wild intimidation? I like the former, and an intricacy that is not opposed to it, and not the latter.


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