Heaney on poetry, physicality, language and politics

Gavin Esler with Seamus Heaney on Hard Talk Extra forty years after the publication of Death of a Naturalist. It raises memories of Gestetnered, blue ink copies of Blackberry Picking. Heaney early on acknowledges the physicality of his work, citing Kavanagh’s work and Hughes’ View of a Pig as things he linked to his own rural upbringing in Co Derry:

The pig lay on a barrow dead.
It weighed, they said, as much as three men.
Its eyes closed, pink white eyelashes.
Its trotters stuck straight out.

Interesting stuff on language, Co Derry, received English, and the Irish tradition. He reckons he has three languages: English, Irish and the local Co Derry language, “with a lot of Scots words in it”. He’s been translating into standard English, a fifteenth century Scots poet called Robert Henryson. “The more boundary crossing the better”. Nomenclature was basically what the civil war was about: British or Irish? But now after the Belfast Agreement, there is agreement that you can be British and Irish, it’s enshrined, there’s more permission.

On his refusal to lend his support to any given political cause: “Once a writer is levied or enlisted you have lost your self respect, which is a writer’s only passport to the future”.

Interesting stuff on his latest collection, District and Circle” title=”District and Circle”>District and Circle.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

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