Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Michael Longley and identity

It is a rare and noteworthy event when BBC Northern Ireland produces a regional programme for which it is worth disrupting the national schedules. Often the sole purpose of local programming appears to be displacing Match of the Day or Question Time (I do appreciate that an easy solution is acquiring a digibox).

Last night the Corporation broadcast just such a rarity in the form of Fergal Keane’s documentary about Belfast poet Michael Longley. The programme lingered on the relationship of place and poetry in Longley’s work and in particular the manner in which Northern Ireland’s troubles shaped the poet’s output.

Although the form of Longley’s poetry owes more to English and classical traditions, its content and themes are grounded in the natural beauty of Ireland and on the troubled history of Northern Ireland. As a correspondent who covered the Troubles in Belfast it was the latter which dominated the interviews which Keane conducted.

I was perhaps most interested in Longley’s thoughts on identity. He rejects the notion that being comfortable with both Irish and British aspects to one’s identity corresponds with “confusion”. Clearly the poet is perfectly happy to identify both these aspects in his own make-up. He dismissed the notion that unionists might be confused in their identity saying that people from that background know full well who they are and in particular “who they are not”.

The programme is available currently on BBC I Player.


beano said...

Thanks for the iPlayer link, I'll have to try and get round to watching that.

And don't get me started on shite local TV disrupting the national schedule...

Chekov said...

"And don't get me started on shite local TV disrupting the national schedule.."

'The Heart of Saturday Night' last week replaced coverage of the FA Cup replays. A classic example.

Oxford User said...

Part of the reason it was good is that Fergal Keane is not part of BBC NI and therefore not stifled with its stale thinking.

Dinamo said...

I did n't see this but I don't like local interference in central broadcasts. Nor do I wish to see poetry or any other arts which do no depict the realism of socialism.

Chekov said...

Dinamo did you know that Stalin wrote poetry in the Georgian pastoral vein as a young man?

"The pinkish bud has opened
Rushing to the pale-blue violet
And, stirred by a little breeze
The lily of the valley has bent over the grass"

You might be interested in the following website:

Dinamo said...

It's the finest most beautiful poetry Chekov though I am so very busy with achieving tractor production targets.

Anonymous said...

Would you happen to know if there is a video available of this programme? I intended to see it, but unfortunatley missed it. I am an admirer of both Longley and Keane.

Chekov said...

Peter I'm not sure about a video. Unfortunately I think the realplayer link is no longer functioning. I'll have a check at some point to see whether the programme is available anywhere else.

Anonymous said...

If your looking for Michael Longley media I found two great videos on youtube