Irish poet Michael Longley spoke at Marymount International School Rome during his visit to Italy to receive top poetry prize.
The word of choice when describing the talk given by the Irish poet Michael Longley at Marymount International School on the evening of 9 November is ‘enlightening’. In Rome to receive the Feltrinelli International Poetry Prize 2022, one of the world’s top literary accolades, it was a great privilege to have one of the greatest contemporary English-speaking poets join our community’s Marymount Talks session, kindly facilitated by the Embassy of Ireland in Italy.
The talk was enlightening because, through his poems and his droll sense of humour, the author was able to communicate a deep and personal message to the audience. All the poems the author read to us were dedicated to a person or place he cherishes.
From the poem about the Ice Cream Man murdered by the IRA, to the one about his granddaughter’s model of the Solar System, and despite the vast topics of his writing, they all conveyed a deep and personal meaning. When he recounted a memorial of a lost friend, his voice immediately grew mournful, but when he read about his grandchildren, his pride and happiness as a grandfather shone through his smile and the loving tone of his voice. Longley said that “life is an airport with arrivals and departures”.
This analogy is a recurring theme in his poetry and when he read us his works, it was as if with every poem he was projecting a clip of his memories. Longley’s inability to stand and deliver the talk was of no hindrance to the depth of his words; on the contrary, it was as if he was sitting there next to each of us, reading his poems by a warm fireplace, taking us straight to Northern Ireland, the Scottish Highlands, or his casa in Tuscany, his "Sole (Soul) Landscapes".
Longley’s work was also thoughtfully paired with some of his daughter Sarah Longley’s artwork, so the audience could visualise the verses that were being read to them. During his speech, Longley gifted us with incredible pearls of wisdom, such as the idea that anyone who ever wrote a line of poetry can be considered a poet.
People from within and outside the Marymount community came to listen to him, including renowned author Sally Rooney. Mr Longley was also very happy to make us students laugh with his pungent Irish humour both during the talk and afterwards. His witty personality and his beguiling verses were a true gift to the audience and left a lasting impression.
By Susanna B. and Margherita S., Editors of Marymount International School Rome’s Newspaper, The Royal Liar
Marymount International School Rome, Via di Villa Lauchli 180, tel. 063629101, website.
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