Paris you are my Milonguera,
guiding me unnoticed
through my slow steps,
With a slight of hand
and a subtle leaning,
back and forth between feeble attempts to embrace the melonga,
and the impossible task of avoiding the seduction of such an enchanting partner……
An evening with Seamus Heaney
Aside from working on my intentions for the final direction of the concerto or working on more cues for the Mother Teresa film The Letters I’ve been living 24/7 for the last 3 months, I do once in a while stray out into Paris. Seriously! After finishing a cue demo, I rushed to be ready in time to attend Irish Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney‘s poetry reading in the courtyard here at Center Culturel Irlandais.
I headed out just after 7.30pm and was surprised to see the courtyard quite full already.
The Irish Times felt that an “otherworldly hush” descended for the 8pm readings in Paris, but I was more inclined to feel that as it had been raining all day, it was a surprise to see clear skies and a chilly but drying cour! Renowned Irish poet and fellow CCI artist in residence Gerry Smyth was already seated and I happily joined him. For a change, I brought my camera, ready to record and use as reference material for composing after enjoying an earlier poetry reading which was also part of Le Marché de la Poésie Poetry Festival.
When he came out, he seemed more frail than I had expected. When he started to read, it was actually quite amazing. It reminded me of watching The Dave Brubeck Quartet on my 30th birthday as they shuffled out onto the stage at Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles and then this frail old little man literally lit up that piano! Sheamus, wasn’t quite so tiny, old, or frail, but he struck me as being both very introspective and very enlightened.
In a brief interview, Seamus gave some interesting insight into his process. When asked about his 2006 stroke, he mentioned that much and all as he didn’t wish for it, he had a new source of inspiration since then. He was particularly struck by the fact that 4 guys had to carry him to help save him and it reminded him of a healing in the Bible where 4 men carried in a man to be healed. It struck him, that without the men carrying, would the man have ever been healed? It was a fascinating concept.
Seamus’s poetry was deeper than I expected and his reading was strong and evocative as he did battle with the birds in the courtyard as they intently sung to the heavens as dusk fell. He even joked about it, spontaneously quoting a poem The Blackbird of Belfast Lough from memory. Reading from his heart, he seemed very connected with his words and his intent. It was very powerful to watch.
Afterwards, I hoped to maybe meet him, but it didn’t come to pass. What a shame. My evening came to a nice close however, when another cue was cleared for The Letters. Yay! Only 11 left now. Let me share with you, a little memory – Seamus reading his first poem of the night “The Given Note” about the Blasket fiddler who retrieves the mysterious Port na bPúcaí (The Fairies’ Tune) from Inisvicillane. You can read the poem and a great overview by Rachel Holstead at RTE.ie.