It looks like I’m going to be moving to London in the summer. I have lots of places I want to say ‘Goodbye’ to in Ireland before I leave.
Tomorrow, St Patrick’s Day, I’m off to Sligo.
Sligo became very important to me over the past few years. I spent a lot of time there doing research for A Dance in Time.
And I can’t think of a more fitting place to spend Ireland’s national day. Sligo, Yeats’s mother’s county, had a profound influence on his poetic and political vision. This vision, honed by the work that he and Maud Gonne spent so much time on, was one of the key triggers of what has come to be called the “Gaelic Revival” — a movement of poetry and history, story and song that stirred yearnings for freedom in so many Irish hearts a hundred years ago.
Later in his life, after witnessing the violence unleashed by the Irish independence movement, Yeats felt ambivalent, even guilty, about the part his words might have played: “Did that playof mine send out/ certain men the English shot?”
Paul Muldoon, another Irish poet, has taken a pinprick to that: “If Yeats had saved his pencil-lead/would certain men have stayed in bed?” Politics in Muldoon’s poem is “a twisted root/with art its small, translucent fruit/and never the other way round.”
Muldoon was augmenting the voice of the English poet, WH Auden, who famously asserted in his elegy for Yeats that “poetry makes nothing happen”.
Maud Gonne would not have agreed.
Neither, I think, do I. But It’s something I want to explore.
So tomorrow, I’m taking a camcorder to Sligo to do just that. I’m hoping (the technology Gods being willing) to record my first video post for this blog. Yikes! I’m told by the trusty Romans of Agile Technologies, who set up this site for me, that it’s all very simple.
Wish me luck.
And I’ll be wishing you a very Happy Paddy’s Day.