The Given Note traditional music, crisis and the poetry of Seamus Heaney
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Crosson, S. (2011) ' The Given Note Traditional Music, Crisis and the Poetry of Seamus Heaney ' In: Anne Karhio, Seán Crosson and Charles Armstrong(Eds.). Crisis and Contemporary Poetry. - : Palgrave.
This paper proposes that at a time when Northern Ireland increasingly descended into civil strife and crisis, Seamus Heaney looked to landscape, and to a lesser but comparable, extent traditional music, to articulate a distinctive voice, beyond the claims of tradition and community, ‘to use the first person singular’ as he has remarked, ‘to mean me and my lifetime’. Indeed, Heaney has faced a crisis of identity that has preoccupied Irish poets since at least the time of Yeats, a crisis brought on by the discontinuity in the Irish literary tradition, by an unresolved postcolonial condition and a struggle between the pull of community and tradition and that of the individual artiste. Heaney’s work has been challenged by the tensions that underlie relations between each of these elements and a quest for motifs, including that provided by traditional music, adequate to his own predicament. In this context, while traditional music and song would appear to have provided Heaney with what he interpreted as an appropriate metaphor for artistic inspiration, his portrayal often avoided the political and social complexities associated with this music. Poems considered in this analysis include 'The Given Note', 'The Tollund Man', 'Broagh', 'Digging', 'The First Flight', 'Belderg', 'The Singer’s House', 'In Memoriam Sean Ó Riada', and 'Song', and the album The Poet and the Piper, a collaboration between Heaney and the acclaimed traditional musician, uilleann piper Liam O'Flynn.
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