Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Politics/Poetics of Re-Homing, V

inner émigré
rolling off my tongue...
the professor's
right eye flickers
in a long shadow

Atlas Poetica, 15, July 2013

Note: you can read its preceding tanka or the whole sequence here. The phrase inner émigré comes from Seamus Heaney's work:

6. Exposure

It is December in Wicklow:  
Alders dripping, birches
Inheriting the last light,  
The ash tree cold to look at.

A comet that was lost
Should be visible at sunset,  
Those million tons of light
Like a glimmer of haws and rose-hips,

And I sometimes see a falling star.  
If I could come on meteorite!
Instead I walk through damp leaves,  
Husks, the spent flukes of autumn,

Imagining a hero
On some muddy compound,  
His gift like a clingstone  
Whirled for the desperate.

How did I end up like this?
I often think of my friends’
Beautiful prismatic counselling
And the anvil brains of some who hate me

As I sit weighing and weighing
My responsible tristia.
For what? For the ear? For the people?  
For what is said behind-backs?

Rain comes down through the alders,  
Its low conducive voices
Mutter about let-downs and erosions  
And yet each drop recalls

The diamond absolutes.
I am neither internee nor informer;  
An inner émigré, grown long-haired  
And thoughtful; a wood-kerne

Escaped from the massacre,  
Taking protective colouring  
From bole and bark, feeling  
Every wind that blows;

Who, blowing up these sparks
For their meagre heat, have missed  
The once-in-a-lifetime portent,  
The comet’s pulsing rose.

Below is an excerpt from George Morgan's interview with Seamus Heaney :
You once wrote of yourself as an “inner émigré,” a term that has been bandied about a lot since then. Do you still think of yourself in this way?
As far as possible, you try to remain a mystery to yourself. Living in Ireland, not being an exile, living in Ireland as a social creature, as a familiar citizen, I think there is a great danger that one’s social persona might overwhelm one’s daimon — if you’ll permit me such a grand term… And so what one is always trying to do is displace oneself to another place or space. In my case, I’ve been very lucky to have had a cottage in Wicklow where I am literally displaced from my usual Dublin suroundings and indeed Wicklow is where I first thought of myself as being an inner émigré. Since 1988, thanks to the great kindness of Ann Saddlemyer, I’ve been able to own the cottage and to think of it as my “place of writing.” When I said “inner émigré,” I meant to suggest a state of poetic stand-off, as it were, a state where you have slipped out of your usual social persona and have entered more creatively and fluently into your inner being. I think it is necessary to shed, at least to some extent, the social profile that you maintain elsewhere. “Inner émigré” once had a specific meaning, of course, in the 1920s and 30s in Soviet Russia. It referred to someone who had not actually gone into exile but who lived at home disaffected from the system. Well, to some extent that was true of myself. Certainly, in relation to Northern Ireland.

1 comment:

  1. It was with reference to Zamyatin that Trotsky in 1923, in his Literature and Revolution, coined the term “inner émigré” to define an attitude and a quality of writing which he resented, a scornful aloofness to the Revolution, a spiritual isolation that seemed to him willful and snobbish.

    -- excerpted from The Literature of Nightmare by Helen Muchnic