RIP Seamus Heaney
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A person from Northern Ireland is naturally cautious. You grew up vigilant because it’s a divided society. My poetry on the whole was earth-hugging, but then I began to look up rather than keep down. I think it had to do with a sense that the marvelous was as permissible as the matter-of-fact in poetry. That line is from a poem called “The Gravel Walks,” which is about heavy work—wheeling barrows of gravel—but also the paradoxical sense of lightness when you’re lifting heavy things. I like the in-betweenness of up and down, of being on the earth and of the heavens. I think that’s where poetry should dwell, between the dream world and the given world…
Though I love both poetry and Ireland, and have read a few poems here and there (Digging, for one, with its great juxtaposition of a farmer’s spade and a writer’s pen), I have been remiss in reading much of Seamus Heaney’s writing as a whole. I remember hearing that he’d written a new translation of Beowulf, which intrigued me, but I haven’t yet picked up a copy. You know how it goes.
But even though I only have an introductory knowledge of his work, I wanted to take the time today, on the day of his passing, to honour the well-chosen words of Seamus Heaney.
Raise your glass for Seamus Heaney, a man of hope and poetry.
Seamus Heaney on Writing
- I always believed that whatever had to be written would somehow get itself written.
- I can’t think of a case where poems changed the world, but what they do is they change people’s understanding of what’s going on in the world.
Seamus Heaney on Hope
Excerpt from The Cure at Troy: A Version of Sophocles’ Philoctetes:
History says, Don’t hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.
So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.
With lines like that, I definitely need to add this book to my reading list. Wow.