Winter 1987 • Vol. IX No. 1 NonfictionJanuary 1, 1987 |

The Pressed Melodeon

Ten years ago Seamus Heaney read his poems at a poetry festival in Cambridge, England. His audience was largely British, but it also included Robert Duncan, Robert Creeley, Fielding Dawson, and other American writers. The atmosphere was congenial but unexpectedly tense. In his kindly, disarming manner, Heaney had made a few ironic remarks about Anglo-Irish relations, and several Cambridge students had angrily stomped out. As Heaney turned gingerly from the subject of British colonialism to his poems on Irish history, he nodded playfully to his American colleagues. "You see," he remarked to Duncan and Creeley, "you've had the frontier. We've had the bog." Heaney's remark has stayed with me for a decade, perhaps because it reveals a special affinity between Irish and American poets, while also drawing a bold line between the two cultures. I have no Irish heritage, but I have lived in Ireland, and over the years I have been drawn to the poems of Patrick Kavanagh, Thomas Kinsella, J

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