Thinking of Sweeney

One of my favorite poetic works is Seamus Heaney’s translation/version of the Buile Suibhne (Sweeney’s Frenzy) Sweeney Astray. In his introduction Heaney writes “…the literary imagination that fastened upon him as an image was clearly in the grip of a tension between the newly dominant Christian ethos and the older, recalcitrant Celtic temperament. The opening sections which recount the collision between the peremptory ecclesiastic and the sacral king, and the closing pages of uneasy reconciliation set in St. Moling’s monastery, are the most explicit treatment of this recurrent theme. This alone makes the work a significant one, but it does not exhaust its significance. Fore example, insofar as Sweeney is also a figure of the artist, displaced, guilty, assuaging himself by his utterance, it is possible to read the work as an aspect of the quarrel between free creative imagination and the constraints of religious, political, and domestic obligation.”

 

Ah, yes, the recalcitrant Celtic temperament. Suibhne who is traumatized in battle goes off into the woods, the archetypal outsider poet, where he lives like a bird, sharing in the beauty and joys and the terrors and discomforts of such a wild existence. Bright and dark is the wisdom of those who wander the liminal places of imagination, otherworld and wild earth. I’ve written about him before: https://finnchuillsmast.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/sweeney-orpheus-rimbaud-accursedblessed-poets/

 

For the Catholic Church this is a day for St. Moling who gave Suibhne last rites. Some of us CRs instead honor Mad Sweeney now.

 

Here’s a poem from my book:

 

SUIBHNE AGAIN
I flew in nightdark
over city to a remnant beach
littered in driftwood
above which stood
eucalyptus
offering rest.
A proper lookout it was,
above that tangled spit
covered in berry brambles—
a forager’s paradise.

 https://www.createspace.com/4443944

If you know the East Bay (San Francisco Bay) maybe you can figure out this place.

 

 

 

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