I feel a great sense of weariness as I look at the current political scene. Domestically, in the UK, we have Brexit, each day, it seems, bringing with it a fresh wave of rhetoric whose purpose is to marginalise and threaten the ‘other’, from overseas students and refugees to High Court judges. Across the pond, America goes to the polls to decide the outcome of what is surely the most bitter and divisive presidential campaign in living memory.
In such a state I listened to Michael Longley’s interview with Krista Tippett from the On Being blog, above. While he repeatedly avers the uselessness of poetry, it lifted my spirits enormously. In it you can hear him read his poems ‘Ceasefire’, ‘All of These People’, ‘The Ice-Cream Man’, and ‘Remembering Carigskeewaun’. There are other fascinating references to his contemporaries Seamus Heaney and Derek Mahon, as well as Stanley Kunitz (‘form is a way of conserving energy’) and Wallace Stevens (‘The Idea of Order at Key West’). As in his poetry, Longley meditates on poetry’s capacity to pay witness to and encompass silence, nature, love, family and war.
Whatever the outcome of today’s election in the States, this recording will leave you feeling a little more reassured in the goodness of humanity by the time you finish listening to it.