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Michael Longley, “The Miner”

I hadn’t meant to write about  Longley again so soon but I was put in mind of his  poem “The Miner” by a piece in Cynthia Fuller’s Background Music. It’s in his 2004 volume, Snow Water. Generally, I suppose, I find the imaginative pressure of this collection just a little lower than that of Gorse Fires, but “The Miner” is one of those poems that seizes you by the throat and pushes tears into your eyes by the sheer force of the ideas it brings together so delicately and simply, without rhetoric or straining after effect or seeming to have … Continue Reading

Michael Longley, “Northern Lights”

How many poets are responsible for as many perfectly formed poems as Michael Longley? Of all of them, one of my very favourites is “Northern Lights”, an extraordinary combination of lightness of touch, harmony and grace with vastness and imaginative depth, all in a mere six lines.

In this poem, Longley remembers how when someone (“you”) woke him to show him the shimmering of the aurora through the window,

the northern lights became our own magnetic field –
your hand on my shoulder, your tobacco-y breath
and the solar wind that ruffled your thinning hair.

It isn’t stated but seems obvious that the … Continue Reading