Friday, April 19, 2013

Poetry Friday: Happy Birthday, Mr. Heaney

It was Seamus Heaney's birthday on April 13th, and I'm going to copy and paste here a blog post that I put up last year for Poetry Friday. Heaney is one of my favorite poets - his work manages to be both personal and political. How does he balance those two impulses, those two very different (maybe not so different - time to rethink that) purposes? Here's my Happy Birthday post from last year:

Happy Birthday, Seamus Heaney!

Seamus Heaney...

It's Seamus Heaney's birthday today. I once got to share a ham sandwich and a pint with this wonderful poet. He joined half dozen students (me among them) at the College Inn Pub when he was in Seattle for a reading at the University  of Washington. It was quite a long time ago, but I remember everything about it. The man was absolutely beautiful - relaxed, funny, generous-hearted, talented beyond belief - and that shock of white hair! And that Irish lilt! He didn't disappoint, that's for sure. 

Here's a poem of his that I love:


And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you'll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

                              - Seamus Heaney
                                 from The Spirit Level

And click here to hear the man himself, reading it.  
You'll see what I mean about that Irish lilt.
Happy Birthday, Mr. Heaney!

Irene Latham is hosting Poetry Friday today - head over to her blog to see what other people have posted. And don't forget to keep track of her Progressive Poem 2013 - 30 different poets adding a line a day through National Poetry Month. Here's the list - click on the most recent date and you'll see how it's grown.

...and Seamus Heaney.


  1. "and catch the heart off guard and blow it open." Yes yes yes! Thank you, Julie. xo

  2. What a great memory of a great poet!