Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Seamus Heaney interview

I encountered and read last night, via a link on Todd Swift's Eyewear blog, is rife with insights on the craft and art of poem-making. Rho00219


William Michaelian said...

Yes, and for further propagation, Heaney’s remark:

“Each poem is an experiment. The experimental poetry thing is not my thing. It’s a programme of the avant-garde; basically a refusal of the kind of poetry I write. The experiment of poetry, as far as I am concerned, happens when the poem carries you beyond where you could have reasonably expected to go. The image I have is from the old cartoons: Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse coming hell for leather to the edge of a cliff, skidding to a stop but unable to halt, and shooting out over the edge. A good poem is the same, it goes that bit further and leaves you walking on air.”

Thanks for the link.

brian a j s said...

This response you quote is the one
which most impressed and heartened
me, reminding me first of a similar remark by Wallace Stevens and then of a poem in my original Rooted Sky (now Rooted Sky 2007): The Mystics

William Michaelian said...

“The Mystics” is a fine poem. For me, your lines

how human
the world is . . .

is that moment of “shooting over the edge.”

brian a j s said...

Thank you. I have a notion about its genesis, though that notion is irrational; but the trajectory of it is beyond me. I vaguely recall another person years ago telling me the same words you chose are where the poem takes flight.

Among so many of his excellent remarks, Heaney--I'm sure you remember--also said (I paraphrase) that while the maker of a poem retains control of it, it is his/her business; but once it is presented for others to judge/ it is no longer any of his/her business.

To me this does not mean the author is dead at that point but that the author at that point is set aside. Though it is highly unlikely I would, I could revise this word-object up until the day I am no longer able to.

Being open to such gifts is what makes any positive human endeavor worthwhile. There are, of course, some who believe poem-making is an empty/valueless endeavor, or even a negative one.

William Michaelian said...

I do remember Heaney’s other remark that you refer to. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that a poem is no longer the poet’s business after it’s released into the wild; rather, it takes on new life and momentum; and the very act of having written and presented it also has its own subtle effect on the poet.

Certainly, what happens to a poem and how it’s perceived is to a very large extent out of the poet’s hands. To me, that’s a wonderful thing. And while you can revise a poem later, it might well be that what you’re really doing is writing a new poem, in that you are incorporating new experience, insight, anger, disappointment, frustration, vocabulary, etc. This can be the case even if you change only one or two words.

As for those who feel poem-making is empty and valueless, for them it probably is, along with a great many other things if they were to stop and examine their own day-to-day existence and stock assumptions. Any action, meanwhile, can be poisoned by motive, arrogance, etc.

Each of these points, of course, can be refuted and expanded upon.