Thursday, January 25, 2007

Seamus Heaney and interpretation

I'm reading Heaney's collection of poems, District and Circle. I haven't sat down to read poetry in a thousand years (apart from taking frequent solace in Rilke, but I know him too well). Heaney's language is full of rhythm and the brogue of his birthplace, and yet often the meaning remains partially buried thanks to some of the strange words he uses.

Sometimes, when I used to go to see contemporary dance in London at The Place or Sadler's Wells, I used to feel an impostor. I'd accuse myself mid-performance of going there only because people like me do things like go to such places. Although I always enjoy seeing contemporary dance (NDT, Pina Bausch, Les Abbe C de la B etc), I sometimes feel like my understanding of it is utterly superficial, and that others in the audience are following the performance at deeper more meaningful levels. I have this lack of confidence sometimes with poetry. I'm sure some of you at least can resonate with this occasional diffidence in the face of the art work: "perhaps I am not meant to read this, or fully understand this..."

But then, the idea that there is clarity in the art work is and should always be a myth. A 'good' work of art ripples with enigma and the possibility of multiple interpretations across time and space. A good work of art is always rich with hermeneutics - Hermes should always have work to do. And so perhaps diffidence in the face of the art work can be two things, ambiguously interwoven. It can be a return to the child, setting forth into adult things, confused at the scale of the buildings and the way to go. And it can also be that return to the hermeneutic crossroads (where Hermes and Eshu dance with each other): which way to go, which way to take this?

District and Circle. One reads the title of the collection and is confused immediately: Heaney, in London?


Buky,  12:30 pm  

I love Seamus Heaney. I haven't gotten round to reading District and Circle but his selected poems 66 -87 contains many wonderful poems. I think most young nigerians reading some of his earlier work from there would identify with that strong sense of culture and knowing where one is from. The troubles come up often as a theme in his earlier work and I found when i was younger that again as a Nigerian growing up with our own set of troubles Heaney was like a brother from another mother...or in this case another country.

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