Favorite things

In Animals, Artists, Break - coffee, Current reading, Hautvoir, Local projects, Poetry, proto drafts on February 29, 2016 at 8:58 am

This, for example (while I cringe at the thought of Things I Must Do Today):

One of my favorite online news sources (Mediapart) publishes a blogger’s enthusiastic report concerning a fiction writer/poet/painter’s prize for literature. I take a look, of course. No more than ten words into the reading, my eyes start to skip away. I ask them to be polite and read some more. They comply but it’s no good. You’re wasting precious time here, they say. Why? Because both the writer’s words and those of his admiring public remind me of the worse moments in French literature classes. Moments when chaste-by-obligation nuns turned ecstatic in dubious ways over some roiling sentiments by Gérard de Nerval, for instance.

So I revert to Seamus Heaney. Of personal contact with Irish soil, I have nothing but a brief stopover at Dublin Airport for some unexplained “checking” of the plane boarded in Paris, and supposed to cross over the Atlantic all the way to Montreal. Of the airport, I recall nothing but the sight of a priest with a full and beefy red face downing a huge mug of black beer. Plus, of course, tales by and about me Irish grandmother.

All this to explain there’s no trace of a brogue when I read Heaney’s poems out loud to myself. (Other times, I read them silently, because then, I definitely hear the lilt and the ponderous, the wondrous, and so on.)

The one I read over and over with delight last night – after endless dreary dealings with provisional budgets better described as desperate scrapings:


The annals say: when the monks of Clonmacnoise

Were all at prayers inside the oratory

A ship appeared above them in the air.


The anchor dragged along behind so deep

It hooked itself into the altar rails

And then, as the big hull rocked to a standstill,


A crewman shinned and grappled down the rope

And struggled to release it. But in vain.

‘This man can’t bear our life here and will drown,’


The abbot said, ‘unless we help him.’ So

They did, the freed ship sailed, and the man climbed back

Out of the marvelous as he had known it.

Seamus Heaney


Is there a moral to this post? Two, in fact:

1 what works for you, works for you. What doesn’t, doesn’t.

2 the second I’m still struggling to carve out in fiction, with grateful assistance to those voices that matter to me.


More urgent, trying, pesky dealings with bureaucratic deadlines and dead ends today? Afraid so – with whatever delightful breaks I encounter in passing. You don’t tell an old horse to speed past a luscious bit of greenery by roadside – not unless you wish the old horse to jerk down his head and spill you out of the saddle.



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