This has been a fun week, and it’s gone by too quickly. I want to leave you with one more book recommendation and some wise words from another poet I deeply admire. Stepping Stones, the collection of interviews with Seamus Heaney conducted by the late Dennis O’Driscoll, is like a portable literature seminar and MFA program all rolled into one. It reminds me, in fact, of a “mini-course” I took as an undergrad at the University of Michigan, taught by the great Leo McNamara; we met once a week with Leo Mac and he guided us page by page through a close reading of Heaney’s entire Selected Poems.
I read Stepping Stones always with a pencil in hand. Here are a few of the lines I underlined:
“I learned what inspiration feels like, but not how to summon it. Which is to say that I learned that waiting is part of the work.”
Poetry “creates a pause in the action, a freeze-frame moment of concentration, a focus where our power to concentrate is concentrated back upon ourselves.”
“…One of the gifts of poetry is to extend and bewilder, and another is to deepen and give purchase.”
“When you write, the main thing is to feel you are rising to your own occasion.”
“Who’s to say where a poem begins?”