Oxford poet highlights influences of Blake
Assistant News Editor
Tom Paulin, a poet and Lecturer at Oxford University's Hertford College, spoke as a guest lecturer about the importance of William Blake's poetry to three influential men on Thursday.
Paulin, describing the genius of William Blake, said, "He was an aristocrat in the slum … [Blake was] a hefty extravagance of invention."
Ignored in his own time, it was not till after Blake's death that his work was appreciated, Paulin said.
The lecture, entitiled "William Blake, Irish Visionary: His Influence on Yeats, Joyce and Van Morrison," explained the impact Blake has had on James Joyce, W.B. Yeats and Van Morrison.
Blake's poems bring to mind God, demons and the fatherland, Paulin said. He discussed how Blake used poetry as a median to present the frustrations and tribulations he had with English rule.
"Blake was an inspiration to the Irish people," Paulin said. He said Blake attempted to present to the masses a complex collection of poetry with extensively detailed illustrations. Yeats greatly admired his work and was influenced by his style, Paulin said.
Paulin told the attentive crowd how musician Van Morrison was heavily influenced by both Yeats and Blake. He said Van Morrison was so greatly inspired by Yeats that he recorded an entire album using a selection of Yeats' poems. Because of copyright restrictions and the lack of support from Yeats' surviving heirs, however, the album still has not been released to the public.
Like Blake, Paulin said, Morrison tries to express the concept of Eden and how it would appear to us. His music is the result of fussing Scotch, Irish and England fussing with the American venacular.
But in addition to Van Morrison's influences, Paulin explained his faults.
"On paper, the lyrics don't work well," Paulin said. But with the wide range he employs to pronounce the words he sings, Paulin said, Van Morrison has the ability to create a great work of art. He said both faith and vision are shown as forms of healing, and voice is a form of freedom. Like many of Blake's poems, Van Morrison music is always searching for something that's been lost, Paulin said. He said Van Morrison creates a Blakian vision with his music, and as such, one can argue that Blake is a folkloric artist.
Paulin has edited numerous award winning collections of poetry, including "The Faber Book of Political Verse" and "The Faber Book of Vernacular Verse." His first book of poetry, "A State of Justice," received the Somerset Maugham Prize in 1977. Paulin published a new book last year, "The Invasion Handbook."
His lecture was sponsored by the Keough Institute for Irish Studies.
All News Stories for Friday, November 22, 2002