Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I thought this response to the recent BBC radio broadcast on Barry MacSweeney - from someone who knew the man personally - ought to be lifted out of the 'comments' stream and put on the main blog:

"An interesting programme, which I caught up with rather late. Didn't really tell me very much I didn't know already, but I was staggered by Iain Sinclair's remark that Barry 'was nothing but a poet'.

I know, and have known, many people who also knew Barry, some of them quite well, who had no idea he was a poet at all."

Aidan Semmens


Ed Baker said...


you only know one
when you read one

Anonymous said...

I recall hearing a story about an "office" colleague of Wallace Stevens, who, in reply to an interviewer's question, supposedly said "Wally? Wally wrote poetry?"

Aidan Semmens said...

Further to that - I also knew people who worked with Basil Bunting when he was a humble business sub-editor on the Newcastle Journal and were staggered when he was "outed" as probably the region's greatest poet.

Alan Baker said...

Good stories, both. As Ed says, you only know a poet when you read one. Maybe there are no poets, only people who write poetry.

Aidan Semmens said...

I could certainly live with that idea, Alan.
I think both Barry and Bunting were 'poets' but that's obviously not all they were - and for a large portion of Bunting's life I think he'd have laughed at that description. Gael Turnbull, fine man of letters that he was, was undoubtedly known by more people as a doctor, and the same probably goes for William Carlos Williams. I could go on and on. I think I'd be slightly suspicious of someone who had nothing but "poet" on their CV.