Quite a lot here at Magnie central. In a conversation with a friend this week I quoted Auden‘s doubtless abused maxim that “poetry makes nothing happen”.
I’ve seen myself and others ‘defend’ poetry against this assertion. My view on this has always been and remains that ‘nothing happening’ is a good thing – a desirable outcome both for Auden, who lived through two World Wars; and also for Yeats, who the poet was eulogising, and despite making a lot of literature also made a big contribution to Ireland’s painful struggle for independence. It is also a desirable thing for many people today in a world where everything needs done yesterday and many people truly rest when they’ve finally been and gone away. Don Share formidably explores their relationships with each other, poetry, happenings and nothingness.
I remember W B Yeats digging me out of a poetic hole plenty years ago now – I’d been writing pretty fervently and reading everything I could get a hold of and ending running out of steam, and losing the sense of direction which had forced me to write. It happens. As you explore an idea through your own words and others, and open yourself up to related and opposing ideas you can find yourself far removed from where you started. This in itself is an acheivement – you have expanded your mind, your knowledge and your work – but sometimes it leaves you unsure of where you are and confused about where to go.
This is about where I was, when I read The Wild Swans at Coole in the Saturday Guardian on the 900 from Glasgow to Edinburgh. Everything made sense again – immediately I ordered Seamus Heaney’s selection of Yeats, proceeded to devour the lyrical genius and found words once more flowed onto the page, both at and against my will.
Today, all sorts of everything is happening, and hopefully a little bit of nothing. Poetry isn’t responsible for all of it. But it’s behind a lot of it, and will come out of somewhere unexpected.