When I read Eilis O’Hanlon’s piece in the Sunday Independent
"… Heaney crumbled in the face of a nation’s affection a long time ago. He’s become a sort of caricature sage, un complainingly producing little nuggests of home-spun wisdom when required, the way a Christmas cracker dispenses jokes…"
I bristled. What business has a young thing like her being given a column in the best selling Irish Sunday newspaper? Who is she to write such caustic comment on the greatest living Irish man of letters? The cheek of her. She’s not worthy to wipe the snot from the end of his nose. She deserves to be locked up in stocks so we could lambaste her with dinner-party spittings. In short I didn’t like what she wrote.
With some reluctance I read on.
She doesn’t look much older than Heaney was when he wrote Death of a Naturalist.
"… I want them[my poets] to be curmudgeonly buggers who refuse to play along withe the officially sanctioned self-deception which such public love-ins encourage…
"What would have been thrilling and wondrous last week is if Seamus Heaney has stood up in Kilmainham and denounced the whole brood of pseuds and hypocrites for not really giving a rat’s ass about poetry, or sparing a moment’s thought for it from one day to the next…
"Poets should do the literary equivalent of turning over the moneychangers’ tables in the Temple, not pull up a chair and help them count the cash…"
I have to admit that I admire this argument. I love this critique, with its Biblical references.
"… on home turf, he’d rather be a big cuddly bear of a poet, wrapping us in words that console not confront, and, in return we’ve happily made him our Poet Laureate in a society which take pride, paradoxically, in having divested itself of such outdated symbols of cap-doffing servility…"
There’s too much here. For example, Eilis O’Hanlon professes to know what Heaney would rather be, and this is too much for me. I strongly doubt she’s ever met the man. She may not feel confronted by Heaney’s poetry, but that’s her problem. She has no business ascribing her problem to the rest of us.
But, on balance, I end up admiring the cheek of her critique.