Sunday 21 January 2018

Simon says he will honour his old poet friend

Heaney tribute: Paul Simon will be among the acts
Heaney tribute: Paul Simon will be among the acts

John Boland

Paul Simon, who will be taking part in Dublin City Council's tribute to Seamus Heaney in the National Concert Hall next Wednesday, is no stranger to this country, having spent some time in our capital city's northside in the early 1960s – just before he and Art Garfunkel became famous as a duo.

Indeed, if my memory serves me well, he had temporary lodgings in Drumcondra and also submitted some poems to Terence de Vere White, then literary editor of the Irish Times, for favour of publication. These, alas, were rejected, even though one of them, the lyrics to The Sound of Silence, went on to achieve worldwide fame when Simon put a tune to them – though only after producer Bob Johnson had added an insistent drumbeat to the original acoustic folksy version.

Simon, I'm told, subsequently became a friend of the late Nobel laureate, though apparently it was through the request of Paul Muldoon, another Heaney friend and another poet-songwriter, that Simon will be appearing at the NCH event.

Others who'll be reading and reminiscing on the night will include Muldoon himself, Michael Longley and President Higgins, with contributions, too, from Paul Brady and from piper Liam O'Flynn, who performed memorably with the poet in celebrated readings down through the years.

If you can't get to the event, which is being presented in association with Poetry Ireland, or if you find that it's booked out, RTÉ Radio 1 is broadcasting highlights next Saturday evening.



Novelist and screenwriter Hanif Kureishi caused something of a stir recently when he said that the vast majority of his creative writing students were "not talented". So why is he teaching them – and indeed taking a fee for such a seemingly useless exercise?

As for the point of such courses, Lillian Hellman declared: "If I had to give young writers advice, I would say don't listen to writers talking about writing or themselves." In other words: just go and do it.

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