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Michael Longley - Where Poems Come From

poet Michael Longley

A new BBC Northern Ireland documentary explores the mystery of where poems come from with one of Belfast’s finest poets.

In this intimate and often poignant film, award winning poet Michael Longley shares insights on the friendships and places that have inspired his work.

Michael says:

"The makers of this film could not have been more responsive to my poems. They delve deep between the lines and illuminate them. With great subtlety they suggest the mystery of where poems come from."

Michael describes his work as 'a series of love poems' - something that's reflected throughout this documentary. It captures the important people, places and moments in his life, including meeting his wife Edna while studying together at Trinity College, Dublin and his close friendship with Seamus and Marie Heaney. And all of this is accompanied by some of his favourite jazz music.

Living in Belfast at the height of the Troubles, Michael was reluctant to write about the conflict, but it affected him personally and was explored in in some of his most thought-provoking poems, including The Ice-Cream Man.

poet Michael Longley

Michael talks movingly about his relationship with his wife, the author and literary critic Edna Longley, and about finding his own unique voice writing about flowers, wildlife and landscapes, particularly those in the quiet countryside surrounding the cottage at Carrigskeewaun in County Mayo which he visits regularly.

Inspired by the classical world and its texts, Michael is also drawn to poetry from the First and Second World Wars. When his father was badly wounded in the First World War, he taught himself to play the harmonica in the trenches. This inspired Michael to write Harmonica, which he describes as his 'favourite poem'.

This film is directed by acclaimed director Adam Low, who describes it as a privilege to talk with Michael Longley.

Adam says: “His radiant poems about the natural world are so inspiring for a film-maker, and his deeply humane response to the political violence in Northern Ireland - and elsewhere - is extremely moving. His lifelong love of jazz and his relationship with his wife Edna (‘I’m the only poet I know whose married to a critic’) gave the film both humour and heart, and his energy at 84 is simply remarkable.”

This film, directed by Adam Low, is a co-production by DoubleBand Films and Lone Star Productions for BBC Northern Ireland and will be available on BBC iPlayer from Sunday 11 February before being broadcast on BBC One NI on Monday 12 February at 10.40pm.

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