Ireland's best known poet Seamus Heaney recently died. In my early days unless it was the transitional program set to music or rhyme I condemned it as garbage. Thankfully I grew out of that. I came to see the beauty of words and how they could be put together, came to respect wordsmith's. I think that Heaney was mainly a wordsmith. But a bit more-----a bit more because he could evoke images and emotions and truth in his works.
But what about the politics of his work? I was and still remain unenthusiastic about him on this front. As far as I know he pretty much stood apart from the civil rights struggle which was consuming the best of the youth and workers and middle class in the late 1960's. And he lived in the middle of these people and was a Catholic peasant like many of them, so he did not have much excuse.
I just re read his speech when he received the Nobel prize in1995. This worries me too. They did not give the Nobel to Joyce. But in his speech Heaney mentions Yeats again and again, a genius no doubt and also a recipient of the Nobel Prize. But how come he never mentioned Joyce. Not once. Not one single time. I believe it is in fact a great compliment to Joyce. Heaney could not reach the heights of Joyce, in my opinion the greatest writer so far. He could never even aspire to reach the heights of Joyce. He knew this but rather than mentioning Joyce in his speech and giving him his due he chose to ignore him. This diminishes Heaney significantly in my eyes.
I cannot get away from the feeling that Heaney lacks certain courage and this in turn results in the sharp harsh cutting edge of truth being missing in much of his work.
Why did he never mention Joyce in his Nobel acceptance speech? Joyce rises like a vertical cliff in
front of the poets and writers of
his time and still does today. I feel that it is a test of writers and poets
how they deal with Joyce. To ignore Joyce on that most important occasion of his
career when he was accepting the Nobel prize as Heaney did in his
speech seems to show a lack of courage, and a certain refusal to face up to the
fact that he was not a Joyce, that the cliff was way to high and vertical for
him and always would be. So better ignore him.
I am no Joyce expert and this is to put it mildly. But I am always surprised, unpleasantly, when I am back in Ireland and meet with writers and poets and they never mention Joyce. It is like they are afraid of him. It was either TS Eliot or Ezra Pound who said that he hated Joyce because nobody could ever write a novel or a piece of literature in the future without Joyce standing above them looking down. I think this is a factor which is very prevalent in Irish writers and writers in general. They will not acknowledge the top man so they chose in the main to ignore him. There are of course many, many exceptions to this rule and to these I apologize unconditionally. But I think this is a factor.
I am reading again The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I am homesick. It is the Modern Library publication. I am at pages 176 and 177 at the moment. What a brilliant exposition of the dialectic in all its splendor and glory and motion. That Joyce was the man.
There were a lot of dignitaries, that is bourgeois types, at Heaney’s funeral. This does not impress me. There were not too many at the funeral of Joyce. I think somebody from the British embassy, a few friends and a homeless man who kept asking who is being buried, who is being buried. Joyce would have like that one.
My Jack Russell is lying here looking up at me. His eyes tell me he wants to know what is going on, what I am thinking. I wish we could talk. Then we could hear the dialectic of the dog. It's bound to have the same principles, matter in motion, nothing moves in a straight line, movement through contradiction, everything has a beginning a middle and an end. No I have not been on the whiskey. I gave it up. The problem is I am still struggling to have the laugh on a regular basis.