Friday, December 8, 2006

Sinéad Morrissey, "Reading the Greats"

Is it for their failures that I love them?
Ignoring the regulation of Selected Poems,
with everything in that should be in —
all belted & buttoned & shining —
I opt instead for omnivorous Completes.
For their froth. Their spite. For avoidable mistakes:
Larkin on Empire, say, or Plath on Aunts.

The thrill of when they dip, trip up, run out
of things to write about before they start,
is the consolation of watching
a seascape suddenly drained and stinking
of flies & fishheads & bladderwrack.
And the tide impossibly distant. And no way back.
Yes, I love them for that.


From The State of the Prisons (2005)

To end this week considering the nature of poetry, its purpose, and the proper role of the poet, something a little lighter to keep things in perspective. Sinéad Morrissey (b. 1972) is an excellent poet from Norther Ireland who I got to see read and meet while in Belfast (she has been associated with the Queen's English department for a few years now). Though I would not class this as one of her exemplary poems, it does express a feeling I share, of the 'rewards' of reading Complete Works rather than Selected volumes - the chance to see that even 'the greats' are at times not-so-great. For those who write, it's encouragement to keep trying; for others as well, I think, a reminder that are heroes are really normal people, just like us, who sometimes fall short of the mark, just like us, and that, contrapositively, we are capable of reaching great heights, just like them. Whether in success or failure, poetry is a testament to our shared humanity - and hopefully inspiring, for all that.

(More about Sinéad Morrissey:

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