What about the river in the trees?


This Bank Holiday weekend Seamus Heaney will be at the Guardian sponsored Hay Literary Festival[they already have some great content at that link, scroll down to listen to last year’s Blasphemy debate with Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens], with other poets at the Poetry Gala on Sunday, and talking to Peter Florence in The Eos Marquee on Monday. Which gives me the opportunity to link to the Radio Ulster Heaney Day page [Updated link], again, where they now have links to most of the material broadcast on that day neatly collected. [link updated.. because someone deleted the previous page]It also provides the Guardian with an excuse, if one was needed, to publish a great interview with Seamus Heaney by James Campbell, touching on a wide range of topics, remembrances, inspirations, politics and his poetic elders – Joyce, Kavanagh, Brodsky and Hughes all make appearances. There’s also some details on his current project, a modern English account of the work of the 15th- century Scottish makar Robert Henryson, and they have one of the finished works from that project – The Toad and The Mouse by Seamus Heaney, translated from the Scots of Robert Henryson (c 1420-1490)

From the interview

Sitting comfortably at last in the country-like kitchen of his house on the Strand, next to a paper-stuffed annex, Heaney reflects on his Nobel remarks: “I was thinking specifically of the book The Haw Lantern, which came out in 1987 [the ‘transitional volume’ of his earlier joke].

“My favourite poem in this area is a two-line dedicatory verse at the front of it: ‘The riverbed, dried-up, half-full of leaves. / Us, listening to a river in the trees.’ That settles it. You know? Obligation, earnest attention, documentary responsibility – fine. But what about the river in the trees, boy? Poetry has to be that, and it’s very hard to get there.”


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