Friday, January 27, 2012


Since we moved into our current quarters (just over a year ago!) I've been storing my cassette tapes at Maison KL. There aren't that many of them, I generally wasn't a great user of tapes, and the ones that survive are for the most part in a woebegone condition, but there are a few spoken word tapes that I still have a high regard for. These include Seamus Heaney reading his collection Electric Light, and that's now gone into temporary residence in the car for those occasions when I get a chance to listen - like on the way to the mosque today.

I don't really think of Heaney as being so demonstrably a magical reader of his work in the same obvious way that applies to Ted Hughes. (Funnily enough, the Electric Light collection replaced Hughes's reading of Tales From Ovid in the car stereo.) But I've been struck this time round by just how much the poems spring to giddy life through that wonderful Irish brogue. The elegy for Brodsky - Audenesque I think it's called, I haven't got the book with me to check - sounded particularly strong today with its strangely rollicking yet restrained rhythms and gorgeous half rhymes. (Surely no living writer does them better than our Irish wizard.)

In fact, I'm now at the point at which I keenly feel I'm not getting the real poem somehow if I'm not listening to Heaney, at least as far as this collection is concerned.

And this, for some reason, puts me in mind of how keenly I find myself these days listening to the prayers at the mosque in terms of the quality of the vocal delivery. Read beautifully, as they so often are, they seem to gain a kind of weight and majesty from that alone, though there's also a strong sense that this is inherent in the fibres of the language itself, of course.

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