Studies in Literature and Culture
John Braidwood - Belonging from Afar: Some Images of the North in the Poetry of Michael Hartnett
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Belonging from Afar: Some Images of the North in the Poetry of Michael Hartnett
All across the Nordic countries many of the wooden houses are traditionally painted with a deep red paint in order to protect them from the harshness of the winter, when temperatures can drop to -30°C and below. The customary paint used is called red vitriol, and it is a by-product of the ancient copper industry that has flourished in Falun in Central Sweden for more than a thousand years. This highly protective paint was used throughout the then Kingdom of Sweden and so we find it commonly used in Finland too, which, until 1807, was a constituent part of Sweden. Michael Hartnett was a poet who was often vitriolic in his poems; he was also an iconoclast, a desecrator who coated his poems in poetic red vitriol in order to protect the rural vision and expression of the Ireland that he cherished. Never the most popular of poets, nor even particularly widely known or read, Hartnett’s voice always carries authority; he is deeply serious about his poetry. He cloaks himself in a vision of Ireland, devoting his life – for rather meagre financial gain – to creating profound poetry addressing not just the flora and fauna of Ireland but embracing an intellectual journey on the path to wisdom: from Irish and classical mythology via an intense knowledge of classical music to Christianity and Islam and much besides. Hartnett...
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