Seamus Heaney

I was driving to or from some meeting or other recently – I can’t recall which – when I heard Mark Lawson presenting a programme about Dennis O’Driscoll’s new book of interviews with Seamus Heaney. It was a delightful programme, and a pleasure to hear both Dennis and Seamus. I came home and ordered the book (I know I’m supposed to be economising, but …) and it arrived today. I wish I could set aside a few days to just read it, but I know it’ll have to be read in quick snatched moments between other things – I am really a bit over-stretched these days.

However, to Seamus. He has a wonderfully warm and engaging personality, and he’s one of our best poets – however you want to define ‘our’. I put the description in that order, because although I love his poetry, it’s his humanity I most admire. He’s amusing, inquisitive, interested and caring – a fine combination for any poet. I’m so glad he’s recovered well from the mild stroke he had a couple of years ago. At that time his doctor told him to do nothing for a year – no public engagements, no travelling, no broadcasts, nothing. Bad news for his friends and admirers, and for a certain poetry festival I could mention, but sound advice. Doubtless he’s now accepting fewer engagements than he used to, but he’s starting to get out and about more, and he sounds in fine fettle.

Here’s a health to you Seamus. Long may you keep digging with that fine pen of yours.


About sunnydunny

Poet, publisher, gardener
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8 Responses to Seamus Heaney

  1. Maureen Hurley says:

    I hadn’t heard about the stroke! I’m so shocked to hear the news. Relieved to know he’s on the mend.Seamus comes to SF/Berkeley every few years and we catch up. Come to think of it, it’s been quiet on the Seamus front for some time. I first met him back in the 1980s, KPFA FM was brodacasting the poems of this marvelous Irish poet who was reading later that night in Berkeley. I jumped into my truck and drove 75 miles (I lived in a remote part of Sonoma County, near the Russian River) to hear him read. It was an amazing evening. As luck would have it, I sat next to his wife Mairi and we hit it off, I’d given her a book of my students’ poetry and art (I was a CA Arts Council artist in residence in a Santa Rosa school).And so began my friendship with Seamus. We were at Poetry International in 1996, stuck in a sluggish elevator with a bunch of crazy African poets, so Seamus pulled out a bottle and we were all drinking uisce beatha from a tiny bottle cap making all manner of toasts. We coined a collective noun for a group of poets as a “Genius of Poets.” (My shout out.)The doors finally opened and we stepped into the lobby, forever changed. A genius of poets.

  2. Colin Will says:

    He had a stroke in August 2006. Those of us who knew about it were asked by his family not to mention it, and we didn’t – that’s one mark of the affection and respect in which he’s held – just to say he was ill, and under doctor’s orders to cancel his engagements for a year. It’s now more widely known, however, and it’s specifically mentioned in ‘Stepping Stones’, the new book I’m referring to. He’s fully recovered from its effects now, I’m delighted to say.Colin

  3. Maureen Hurley says:

    As Stevens penned, It is difficult getting the news from poetry… I think I heard something about it, back then, just didn’t put two and two together.Ah well, it gave me a little blog-een!

  4. Colin Will says:

    Interesting you lived in Sonoma County, Maureen. When we visited my brother in Oakland some years back he took us to his favourite winery there.

  5. Maureen Hurley says:

    And what winery would that be, Colin? I know them all, intimately, as wine was so much a part of our culture.I was circling that great rock of yours in July, wanting to get to the top, but it was closed. Interesting to note that the stones from the castle built the quays and walls of the new town. Do you have any drawings of what the castle looked like before it was torn asunder?

  6. Colin Will says:

    I’ve forgotten the name of the winery Maureen, and the wine I bought is long since drunk. There are castle drawings by a guy called Andrew Spratt. If you go to his website follow the link to his ‘complete index of castles’ and you’ll see the Dunbar one. It was a massive construction.

  7. apprentice says:

    I’ll have to try the listen again facility for the programme, I heard it trailed, but missed the broadcast.He and Edwin Morgan have both retained their inquisitiveness, perhaps that the key to a good life.

  8. Sorlil says:

    Sounds like it’ll be a great read, off to check it out on Amazon…

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