November 3, 2016
Michael Longley —
The Vitality of Ordinary Things

To reassert the liveliness of ordinary things, precisely in the face of what is hardest and most broken in life and society — this has been Michael Longley’s gift to Northern Ireland as one of its foremost living poets. He is a voice for all of us now, wise and winsome about the force of words in a society that has moved away from sectarianism in living memory. A profound conversation before an adoring crowd at The MAC Belfast.

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has written more than 20 books of poetry, including Collected Poems, Gorse Fires, and his most recent collection, The Stairwell. He was the professor of poetry for Ireland from 2007 to 2010 and is the winner of the Whitbread Poetry Prize, the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Hawthornden Prize, and the Griffen Prize. In 2015 he was honored with the Freedom of the City of Belfast.

Selected Video

In the Room with Michael Longley

Michael Longley sits down with Krista Tippett for a conversation and readings of his poems before an adoring crowd at the MAC theater in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Selected Poems

About the Image

A painted portrait of the Northern Irish poet Michael Longley.

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Thank you so much!
Such poetry, rising from such depths of humanity where only silence holds the space, even if for those magical moments when we find no words to express leaves us connected to that "other"

Thank you so much!
Such poetry, rising from such depths of humanity where only silence holds the space, even if for those magical moments when we find no words to express leaves us connected to that "other"

What an astounding interview. How important it was and is to hear the clear and precise language of this poet during this time in the United States. "A care with words"-how we need this now more than ever. Thank you.

Michael Longley. Wonderful.

Oh my, once again Krista has opened my Sunday, this time at a truly crazy moment in our country, with a gift, a great, rich, beautiful gift of Michael Longley. Words cannot express the ongoing gratitude and have for On Being, for Krista, for all the gifts I have received. Arthur Moore, Milford, CT

On Being comes on at 6 am Sunday where I live. "Fall back" or no, I wake in time to listen this week as I do every week. This was a wonderful piece to listen to in the early dark just before this election, when I am so overloaded with negatives that I have begun avoiding election news because it has become all the same, over and over. Here was light I needed so much that after breakfast and morning chores, I sat down with my computer and watched the video of you and Mr. Longley while the light outside rose. There is both ache and laughter in it, and gentle poetry to make my brain and my heart wake up and remember that redemption is possible, no matter how slow it might seem in coming. I have to do my part. Thank you.

So beautiful!

A discovery for me; and what a beautiful one! thank you for sharing these moments and Michael Longley's wonderful poetry

Poetry, said Longley, is useless, but not without value.
I am in the car and the light turns green as he recites the last words of Ceasefire.
I wipe away the tears and wonder-
Am I, like poetry, useless but not without value?
Will we ever forgive and so be able to do what must be done?
What would the person in the car beside think about me in my car, crying listening to poetry?

Thank you for this moving and inspiring conversation, which I listened to via podcast while painting our family's vacation cottage kitchen on the weekend before the election. My heart has felt beaten and battered by all of the arguing, conflict, shouting, abusive language, and gloom of this election season. Longley's words were balm.

When Krista suggested that sometimes we say poems to ourselves, without even realizing they are poems, Michael Longely replied, "Yes. Perhaps. Perhaps. Yes." That and other parts of their unedited conversation inspired me to write the following:

Yes. Perhaps. Perhaps. Yes.

I don’t care if this poem is a forgery.
It’s my life I need to be real.
Perhaps every ordinary thing I do adds up.
Perhaps every passion I feel speaks itself out of me
as I peel carrots, get the car inspected, wait for you.
Yes, you.

A true gift. Heard after the election and it helped soothe my soul.

This is a beautiful conversation; a gift to all of us. Thank you so much! All of the poems read by Michael Longley are downloadable except "The Ice Cream Man." My previous attempts to download it triggered a message from sound cloud indicating that they would look into the issue, but there doesn't seem to be any progress on that front during the last twenty odd days... Is there anyway to make downloading it possible?" I would love to have it available even when I do not have internet access.