Walker Comes Under Fire/Did Shooting Influence Poetry? – Poetry News Roundup December 19th

Today on My Poetic Side we take a look at Alice Walker, who has come under fire for her mention of an antisemitic book. We also look at the possible influence of the Gibraltar shooting on the poetry of Seamus Heaney.

Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet Under Fire for Praising “Antisemitic” Book

Former Pulitzer Prize winner and award-winning poet Alice Walker has come under fire for what has been seen as her recent praise of an “Antisemitic” book written by David Icke.

The comments were made during an interview between the poet and the New York Times Book Review – who have also been criticised for publishing Walker’s comments without quantifying them. The question that has caused the controversy saw the poet being asked what books were currently sitting on her nightstand. Walker, who is the author of the book “The Color Purple” mentioned a couple of books including “And the Truth Shall Set You Free” which was written by David Icke, the controversial British public speaker and author who has written about a number of conspiracy theories that have been seen by many as antisemitic.

This is not the fist time that Walker has mentioned Icke’s work or by association been accused of being antisemitic herself. In 2013 on Desert Island Disks, a British Radio Show, she praised one of his books.

Last year she wrote “It is Our (Frightful) Duty” which was derided as being antisemitic.

The New York Times was quick to issue a statement in which it claimed that the interview, which was part of a regular piece, was meant to be a snap shot of a public figure and that any books recommended by that person were not in fact recommendations from the editors of the paper. They went on to advice that the interview in no way endorsed a person’s choice of book and “Many people recommend books Times editors dislike, disdain or even abhor in the column.”

Gibraltar Shootings May Have Influenced Seamus Heaney

Emory University in Atlanta holds correspondence that was archived by the poet Seamus Heaney. It is now believed that one of the poems in his 1991 collection “Seeing Things”, Settings, XIII was written as a response to the Gibraltar killing in 1988 of three members of the Provisional IRA. Some evidence has also been uncovered to suggest that Heaney was also involved in the publication of two poetry pamphlets for the republicans.

The poem, Settings, XIII, has never before been associated with The Troubles, but a piece of paper found in a file marked correspondence and dated January 1989 suggests that this may be the case. The paper shows lines from the poem in Heaney’s handwriting. The file also contains a poem and a letter from Niall Farrell regarding the incident and a draft of a response letter from the poet.

Farrell is the brother of one of the Provisional IRA members killed on that day in 1988.

Whilst not all of Heaney’s writing in the note is clear, it is possible to make out some of the lines. There is also significant reference to light and heat in the poem which has long suggested that it might have been set in a hotter country. It had previously been assumed that is was Heaney’s musing on a foreign holiday.

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