Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Seamus Heaney on poetry readings

In Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney by Dennis O'Driscoll (Faber 2008), 1995 Nobel Laureate Heaney says the following about poetry readings: "In a good poetry reading - good for you, the poet, that is - you retrieve some of the quickening that you got when you first wrote the thing. The surprise and gratitude are with you again for a moment - the old sense of having been supplied with the words you needed to summon. You have an obligation as a poet not to betray the reality of that. You have been mysteriously recompensed by the words and you owe some fidelity to the mystery....So nowadays, every time I stand up I have been to the inside of what I hope to turn out, and feel both prepared and protected. Perhaps it's meditation by another name, but at this stage it's become a necessity. It means that each reading attains a sense of its own occasion. You may be speaking the same poems, but they are part of something intended, they aren't just inclusions in some accidental or incoherent bundle of things. It means you can give out and keep to yourself at the same time."  pgs 203, 204.

(c) Photograph Red Top by John Robert Lee.

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