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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Consolations of Religion

Critic and artist: how close should the two get? I've no idea, but try the following for size, from Shane Alcobia Murphy’s fascinating new study, Sympathetic Ink: Intertextual Relations in Northern Irish Poetry:

In the course of preparing this book, I published a couple of articles on McGuckian’s poetry which prompted a flurry of correspondence from her. She was unhappy with the fact that I was looking for, and uncovering, the sources behind her work. Apologising for her initial anger, and in an effort to describe her own method of poetic composition, she wrote a poem entitled ‘Mantilla’ and dedicated it to me. […] McGuckian self-consciously describes the action of writing a poem with the aid of a source text, the immediate purpose of which, in this instance, is purely therapeutic. She stated in the letter: ‘I had to write something in the usual way as soon as I – as I shouldn’t??? – could in case I never would again. But I was very aware in this of doing so, and trying not to be anyone but myself, and also of your dedication to your thankless task of studying me.’ The perceived (and wholly unintentional) criticism in my articles had caused the poet great fear, anxiety and anger, yet she learned, through meditation, to make peace with it. ‘The sadness of anxiety’, says the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Han, ‘can be used as a means of liberation from torment and suffering, like using a thorn to remove a thorn.’

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