beating the gold out further

Dennis O'Driscoll: Do you ever feel burdened by the sheer amount of work you know it will require to do justice to a particular inspiration?

Seamus Heaney: One of the difficulties is to know whether a little quick flash of lyric is sufficient. You have the invitation and the inspiration, for want of a better word, but the question that I can never answer is this: to what extent the will should do the work of the imagination, as Yeats said; how far you should push a thing...

When you're starting out as a young poet, you love the high of finishing. So you do the lyric quickly and that's a joy. As you go on, the joy of actually doing it, of beating the gold out further, is what you ideally want. But then the doubt comes in: Am I killing it? Am I deadening it?... Another question to which there are different attitudes is whether imperfection hasn't got its imperatives also, or whether you should make the poem as trim and as perfect as possible...

DO: What are your thoughts about accessibility and obscurity in poetry?

SH: ... I am a slow reader myself and have to be convinced that there's a chance a payload is going to be delivered... If I encounter difficult poems, I listen - that's the only way I can read - for an indication of somebody who knows the score poetically, who's after something beyond all this fiddle.

- from an interview in the December 2008 issue of POETRY, which also includes these fantastic poems by Todd Boss, some of my favourite poems from POETRY in 2008.

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