Heaney at 70 on the murders

Amid the avalanche of tributes to Seamus Heaney at 70 on Monday, a two part interview with Mark Lawson for Radio 4’s Front Row hits the spot on the topics of the poet’s creative mainsprings, his celebrity and his occasional forays into political comment. The first part was recorded at a London session after his South Bank reading to mark the publication of Stepping Stones, his interviews with the poet Dennis O’Driscoll that serves as a partial autobiography. This is tricky territory for a poet who typically likes the verse to speak for itself and is bashful about too much autobiography beyond it. But here Heaney pitches in about the Troubles and the recent killings. Quotes below the fold.The Troubles says Heaney, had to be lived through but for a writer he adds, quoting Joseph Brodsky: “it happens once it’s literature; twice, it’s cliché… Lyric defiance was as important as civic responsibility at a certain point.
And more direct comment on the impact of the murders of the two soldiers and policemen. He feels: “ deep grief but I don’t despair. The hope is in the institutions. Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness conducted themselves well. I think that above all is the reward. It’s a brutal ignorant waste of life. It teaches us the meaning of the word terrorism. In a sense, ( in the past) with a large “cause” involved, the word “terrorism” was resisted. But these acts were pure and simple terrorism. People on both sides are learning what it means.”

  • serious mistake by Lawson; that poem isn’t about Lazarus but a separate story of a sick man being lowered through the roof. The ‘take up thy bed and walk’ case.

  • Pancho’s Horse

    Heaney, ‘the Provo poet’, moved into safer territory to ‘preserve the integrity of his trade’ while the rest of us had to stay here and suffer.Personally, I think as one’s fame rises then one’s integrity seriously falls by the wayside. You could stretch this to fit the ‘new’ Sinn Féin.

  • Patricia Mallon

    PH: what a petty minded post.

    Heaney has found his own way over the years of making a contribution to the resolution of the conflict. Not to mention placing NI in the worldwide Arts map.

  • Pancho’s Horse

    Be still, my beating heart. “NI” on the worldwide Arts map! Beir ar do chiall.

  • Pancho’s Horse

    … and BTW Seamus Ó hÉanaí comes from Ireland NOT Northern Ireland. ASk him.

  • Patricia Mallon

    Hard to believe that Heaney would be in denial (as some are) re NI as a political entity or that like many he does not recognise the multiple identities of people in NI.

    Come to think of it – isnt Heaney included in anthologies representing “Irish” poetry as well as British?

  • George

    “Be advised! My passport’s green.
    No glass of ours was ever raised!
    To toast The Queen”.

    Heaney is a respecter of the right to diversity of nationalities within the internal Irish border.

    I thought he made it clear he wasn’t a “British” poet.

  • Pancho’s Horse

    European – yes, Irish – yes but British – no. His choice. What is a ‘political entity’, Patricia and let me tell you that I do not have multiple identies.

  • Pancho’s Horse

    And to boot, I think the early work of the Irish poet Seamus Heaney is magical.

  • USA

    Between my finger and my thumb
    The keyboard lies, snug as a gun.

  • …………………………….

    “In a sense, ( in the past) with a large “cause” involved, the word “terrorism” was resisted. But these acts were pure and simple terrorism. People on both sides are learning what it means”

    I am often gobsmacked at the bigotry displayed by the Irish.

    The term terrorist was resisted by people who supported acts of terrorism, for example blowing up pubs and cruel and unusual punishment. To suggest that people who lived through the many atrocities of the paramilitaries are only now learning “what it means” (after terrorism has gone out of fashion in the states) is an incredible example of how ethically invertebrate Irish prefer vacuous narrative, that mitigates very much and obnoxiously insinuates universality of perspective, over actually confronting and honestly admitting inhumanities past, and conceding the awfulness of their ambition proven by its awful means and endeavours, such as that illustrated in the quote above. For the record Heaney does not speak for us all, indeed the part of the community he does not speak for are those who’s perspective he would primarily exclude from consideration with his palpably synthetic evaluation. He can try and blank the past all he wants to keep up the cause’s conformity with
    contemporary (shall we say international ?) opinion, and the Irish opium of popularity. When you play at that you get caught out and appear a villain in every sense, indeed the arrogance to even try to put your voice against the reality of history makes it look as if the world winks you on when even people in remote East Timor, nay even Gadaffi, can see the truth.

    To suggest that those on Heaney’s “side” are only learning now the negative value of terrorism can only be laughed at. they were conscious of its value and admitted when they afforded that the murder of two children was too “rip our hearts out”. They also, clearly, know the value of keeping in fashion and, apparently, consider it more important than ethics that had great value than human life.

    And we know mr. Heaney, we were taught well, we know what it means.

    We learned “what it means” following coffin after coffin after coffin. We learned “”what it means” seeing the broken remains of children picked from the rubble. We learned “what it means” when we saw cheerful men on the TV explaining why it was right and proper and good that these things should be done for a large “cause”. We
    learned “what it means” from the total contempt displayed towards our suffering, and the delight in increasing it. We learned exactly what terrorism is. To suggest that the events that are referenced (overmuch and in futility) in a bid for the sort of recognition scorned here by the poet, were not “pure and simple terrorism” is an indication the incredible subversion of ethics and morality to hatred and ambition in Ireland. It must be a large “cause” indeed. Even in the most enlightened elements of the society, it’s pursuit trumps honesty and empathy of any sort.

    There is no such thing as the rewriting of history, only the writing of alternative interpretations. The value of these interpretations is not that of white wash. It appears, to all those not blinded by bigotry, another foul and embarrassing example of culpable guilt. Like when men stand in Stormount and deny their past. That Shame proves the awareness, weather you say the words of not.

  • reef

    interestng post above

  • Pancho’s Horse

    It’s a long time since I saw so many big words in one post. No wonder he/she ran out when it came to a signature.And at the end of it all I’m not much wiser. Weather (sic) that is because I’m dense or not sure who’s (sic) side I am on, I don’t know but the poster certainly feels strongly about something.

  • seamus

    LOL A preposterous post by man with excessive pretensions(a total prick) who seems more intent on masturbating to his own grasp of lexicon then anything else

  • Granni Trixie

    These posts on Heaney are becoming ridiculous.
    Heaney is someone of whom we ought to be proud.Lets call a halt?

  • lots a dots

    Who is this ‘we’ ? given the contrasting values placed on Heaney here, the attempt at emulation and the substance of the criticism, the use of the word we seems almost abuse. I find Heaney contrite and awful. I offer the above quoted verse as example.

    Well Pancho’s , I can only hope my minor spelling mistakes did not take away from your total nonappreciation of my offering. I can cheerfully admit that when distressed and typing at speed, spelling error can occur. There is also a missing ‘if’ in there somewhere, however I suppose a man for whom literature apparently a very serious business was perhaps to moved to affront by this to mention it when still so raw. I suppose nonappreciation of the post if probably for the best, if the response to what was a heart felt denouncment of wilful obloquy and diffidence on the part of the complicit in the face of the aggrieved were slights on minor spelling errors and calls of ‘what a prick’, it would be almost pitiful. Anyway as was suggested, displaying our grief in the hope of reasonable treatment is futile, the post was a necessary exercise in release, and your response predictable.

    By the way what is ‘identies’ ? ;>

  • Chris Donnelly

    ………/ lotsadots

    There’s no need to be so sensitive. After all, if you dish it out then you should be able to take it.

    Tell me though: how do you conclude that ‘the Irish’ are bigoted for (presumably) distinguishing violent actions committed in pursuit of a ’cause’ they endorse from ‘terrorism? Is that not an international phenomenon, past and present?

    I don’t hear unionists depicting the actions of British forces throughout the ages in Ireland or elsewhere as terrorism (with many victims of all ages) though they involved themselves in mass murder of the type you described. Ditto the Americans and others, including today in Afghanistan and Iraq, where we are so conditioned to hearing of bombs wiping out Afghan families that it hardly makes the tail end of the Six o’Clock News.

    So please spare us the self-righteous crap.

  • ………. ……… …….. ……….

    “So please spare us the self-righteous crap.” what a strange way to round off a series of questions….

    I can assure my sensitivities were not aroused by the predictable line of ‘argument’ employment, indeed I state my (near) reaction to such quite clearly. And yes Chris, depraved people often offer contemptible, and often infuriating, relative moral judgements delineated by their own policy. (Rather than treating others as they would have themselves treated). The problem with these erratic valuations is the obvious hypocrisy and the blatantly bigoted and inhumane policy, visible clearly to all but those depraved souls who approve.

    May I say, I feel I have total licence to make perfectly qualifiable general negative comment about the public disposition of the Irish. What is perhaps striking is that you seem to have taken this as an indiscretion.

    Ah now then Chris, lets not allow the conversation to degenerate into the incoherent, nowhere here has anyone mentioned the USA. (Apart from an incidental moniker on the part of one of our poets, evidencing perhaps an American mentality that perhaps contributes to that most unfortunate scenario you describe in the east…..and which perhaps certain Irish factions have taken advantage of ?). Did I say invertebrate somewhere ? Inverted and capable of grotesque rotations might have been better. Anyway, we, it seems, agree that violence and the distinctly differentiated violence of terrorism has been at play in Ireland in the past and its value(s) quite understood. I shall presume that we then agree, perhaps unintentionally on your part, that the comment is, to say the least, mischievous. And also thanks for, again perhaps unintentionally, rushing to add another affirmation to my charge of gross obtusety. And even adding a dimension, you lovely fella !

    May I also, while I’m here and its been mentioned, affirm my belief in the total moral superiority and outstanding clemency and bravery of the British Army – in stark contrast to the Ogres of Erin. (those darn spelling mistakes…). And, while you mention it Chris, extent my good will to our allies and friends in the Afghan and Iraq Armies. I hope they can succeed in crushing the Islamists who are the source of so much appalling misery for their respective peoples. I can only offer prayer that those awful people, who would encourage and support the abuse of these remote peoples in the east (and indeed those in the west) as they, in their stinking prerogative, find the continuation of these people’s misery under particular regime more appealing (and conducive to their own concern) than liberation, construction and peace will, one day, be called to proper account. And Chris, feel free to answer if their is anything new to say, but spare me the half baked self righteous crap. it stinks.

  • Pancho’s Horse

    I get it now! You’re John O’Connell

  • seamus

    , affirm my belief in the total moral superiority and outstanding clemency and bravery of the British Army – in stark contrast to the Ogres of Erin

    LOL nice polemic son

  • latcheeco

    Irvine walks likes Lazarus.