Friday, October 1, 2010

Michael Hartnett

It was in the imperial Hotel in Dundalk that I first met Michael Hartnett. He was presenting me with my prize in the Patrick Kavanagh Memorial competition and after wards he singled me out to talk about my poem. "You counted syllables boy," he said in his unimitable Limerick accent.
" I did ," I said wondering how he had been so quick to spot the form of the poem.
There were four stanzas in that poem and there were the exact number of syllables in each stanza and a few extra in the last one. This was quite acceptable according to the late poet and I had stumbled on it by accident. It is something that I never forgot and now when ever I write a poem I take particular note of this, unless of course it is free verse and even then one must deploy a regular rhythm
There is no substitute for the experience that one may pick up along the way and since then whenever I met a poet that I admire i always tried to get some little gem of information. There is no shortage of advice on such pecularities as punctuation and spelling but when it comes to things like Scancion advice is not as prolific. What poets like Kavanagh who sat by the canal and wrote verses for half a crown a time or McGill who picked potatoes for a living or indeed Ledwidge who worked on the raod from Navan to Slane knew about these considerations I am not sure but it worked for them.

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