[ On Aug 18th Ireland’s Village magazine issued an article critical of Seamus Heaney. As I’ve been unable to post a comment to Village – something looks to be wrong at the site, presumably the cause no one has written a reply to what elsewhere is being tweeted about – I shall put my response on record here].
KEVIN KIELY AGAINST THE SEAMUS HEANEY CULT
It is refreshing to read any contrary or critical take on Heaney and the cult of him such as Kevin Kiely offers. Not everyone considers Heaney a notable poet – Camille Paglia wouldn’t even include him in an anthology, deeming him a third rate Yeats. My own views as author and poet were made clear enough last year in my poem and accompanying article Remembering Seamus Heaney at http://bit.ly/1bcMbRf Today I wouldn’t wish to add or subtract to what I wrote except to affirm that I don’t believe poetic inspiration or laws of inner being have anything in common with ripples over a scullery bucket – the sort of thing that got told to Heaney’s Nobel Prize audience.
Though he has inevitably been criticized for “putting the boot” into a sacred icon, in the course of doing so Kiely is also right to raise questions about the literary establishment and how things get published and for whom and why. This is a valid issue too often ignored.
In my own case and scandalously, one of Australia’s leading poets, and despite the fact I had had a whole poetic drama broadcast on the ABC here, refused to accept me for Penguin New Poets because I had presumed to use “such hopelessly archaic words as ‘conduct’ and ‘bestow’”. In England (where Shakespeare actress Dorothy Tutin couldn’t get her recommendation of me for publication accepted) or Ireland, the attitudes aren’t much better, and it’s the reason for many years I abandoned poetry as any kind of expression for anything at all if you really want to communicate ideas and beliefs to the public. Also if you have any kind of feelings higher than the “Mud Vision” (which in some ways encapsulates Heaney’s extreme earthiness), then there’s no place for you in the new humdrum, anti visionary world of modern poetry. By now its bias has seriously compromised a major function of poetry in reaching towards the transcendent.
Last year I suggested, more than once, that Poetry Ireland might read my if nothing else competent The Hell Passage: Inferno Cantos for Today (http://bit.ly/11dQkzS). I never received so much as an acknowledgement from them, though I did from such as Howard Storm, author of the bestselling My Descent into Death, who opined as one who claimed to have visited hell, that it was a good evocation he hoped many might read. (It is incidentally not based on my own experiences!). However, a recent poem of mine, Coming to Syracuse (Epyllion not Epic, Urblogues not Eclogues) (http://bit.ly/1pi8Hn1), is based, among other things, upon visiting Sicily this year. I have not offered it or anything written during the last year to any magazine or publisher as it seriously isn’t worth it. The prejudiced attitudes of the literary establishment are such I would no longer waste my time. Let others appeal for me if they consider my work worth it – as they should.
Even the mentioned Australian poet who turned me down, remarked I must have been studying the classics for years (but I hadn’t) to arrive at such Virgilian musicality. The secret they didn’t know (and I myself wasn’t aware of back then over twenty years ago) and doubtless the un-Yeatsian rationalist literary establishments would discount, is that as far as the heavens are concerned I have already won the lottery where poetry is concerned. In improbable combination, Poesia (the asteroid) was stationed in my house of destiny at birth, Virgil conjuncted my sun and Shelley was at the rising. Small wonder poet and critic Kathleen Raine made a comparison of me with the Romantics and some of my work as in “Syracuse” looks back to Latin Verse. To make a boast in truly traditional Irish style, basically it is myself who more than most represents the future of whatever poetry there will be in what is a somewhat post-poetic world. It will just take time to recognize the fact. Meanwhile there are some bitter truths to tell. Next month I will issue an autobiography, Reflections of an Only Child, which will establish the truth about many things and people I’ve dealt with from royalty to publishing in no uncertain terms.
[ October 2018. My Amazon review of Kiely’s book on Heaney can be read here https://goo.gl/Nq56Zn ]