During late November-early December 2017, I had the opportunity to visit the University of Gothenburg, as the result of an invitation from Professor Britta Olinder and the Humanities Department. Aleksandra and I ran a two-hour seminar for students and staff on ‘Czeslaw Milosz in Translation: Crossing Cultures’. As well as talking about the issues arising from adapting for an anglophone readership a text aimed originally at a Polish audience, we provided participants with an opportunity to discuss a number of Milosz’s poems including ‘A Poor Christian Looks at the Ghetto’, ‘Pictures’ and ‘Hope’ from The World: A Naive Poem, and ‘Late Ripeness’.
The following day, I delivered a session enabling students to examine drafts of a number of Seamus Heaney’s poems, such as ‘Personal Helicon’, ‘Anahorish’, and ‘Punishment’, and reflect on likely reasons for the changes made during the composition process. They picked up on how in ‘Anahorish’, written in early January 1972, an early allusion to an abattoir was removed and replaced by references to a distant Irish past, where ‘mound dwellers/…./… break the light ice/ at wells and dunghills’. By that means, Heaney shifted the poem’s focus from violence to renewal and regeneration. A mere three weeks after he ended on that positive ice-breaking note, Bloody Sunday occurred and, in its wake, a surge in blood-letting.