Irish Blog Whacked

Friday, August 30, 2013


GEORGE GALLOWAY HOUSE OF                                                                  COMMONERS 

Seamus Heaney, acclaimed by many as the best Irish 
poet since Yeats, has died aged 74.Heaney was born 
near Toomebridge, British Occupied Ireland, but as a 
child moved to Bellaghy. He was a teacher and then had 
a  distinguished career in poetry, winning the Nobel 
Prize for literature in 1995.
Requiem for the Croppies 
The pockets of our greatcoats full of barley...
No kitchens on the run, no striking camp...
We moved quick and sudden in our own country.
The priest lay behind ditches with the tramp.
A people hardly marching... on the hike...
We found new tactics happening each day:
We'd cut through reins and rider with the pike
And stampede cattle into infantry,
Then retreat through hedges where cavalry must be thrown.
Until... on Vinegar Hill... the final conclave.
Terraced thousands died, shaking scythes at cannon.
The hillside blushed, soaked in our broken wave.
They buried us without shroud or coffin
And in August... the barley grew up out of our grave
by Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney

Heaney addresses the Law Society of
University College Dublin, 2009
Born 13 April 1939
Castledawson, Northern Ireland
Died 30 August 2013 (aged 74)
Occupation Poet, playwright, translator
Nationality Irish
Period 1966 – 2013
Notable work(s) Opened Ground: Poems 1966-1996
Beowulf (translation)
District and Circle
The Spirit Level
Notable award(s) Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize
E. M. Forster Award
Nobel Prize in Literature
Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres
Saoi of Aosdána
Golden Wreath of Poetry
T. S. Eliot Prize
The Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry Lifetime Recognition Award

Signature File:Seamus Heaney signature.svg

Seamus Heaney (/ˈʃməs ˈhni/; 13 April 1939 - 30 August 2013) was an Irish poet, playwright, translator, lecturer and recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature. Born at Mossbawn farmhouse between Castledawson and Toomebridge, he resided in Dublinuntil his death.[1][2]

Other awards that Heaney has received include the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize(1968), the E. M. Forster Award (1975), the PEN Translation Prize (1985), the Golden Wreath of Poetry (2001), T. S. Eliot Prize (2006) and two Whitbread Prizes (1996 and 1999).[3][4] He has been a member of Aosdána since its foundation and has been Saoisince 1997. He was both the Harvard and the Oxford Professor of Poetry and was made a Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres in 1996. Heaney's literary papers are held by the National Library of Ireland. On 6 June 2012, he was awarded the Lifetime Recognition Award from the Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry.

Robert Pinsky observes of Heaney, "with his wonderful gift of eye and ear Heaney has the gift of the story-teller".[5] Robert Lowell called him "the most important Irish poet since Yeats" and many others, including the academic John Sutherland, have echoed the sentiment that he was "the greatest poet of our age".[

From Mid-Term Break

Wearing a poppy bruise on the left temple,
He lay in the four foot box as in a cot.
No gaudy scars, the bumper knocked him clear.

A four foot box, a foot for every year.

from "Mid-term break",
Death of a Naturalist (1966)

Heaney was born on 13 April 1939, at the family farmhouse called Mossbawn,[1] between Castledawson and Toomebridge in Northern Ireland; he was the first of nine children. In 1953, his family moved to Bellaghy, a few miles away, which is now the family home. His father, Patrick Heaney, was the eighth child of ten born to James and Sarah Heaney.[6] Patrick was a farmer, but his real commitment was to cattle-dealing, to which he was introduced by the uncles who had cared for him after the early death of his own parents.[7]

Heaney's mother, Margaret Kathleen McCann, came from the McCann family,[8] whose uncles and relations were employed in the local linen mill, and whose aunt had worked as a maid for the mill owner's family. The poet has commented on the fact that his parentage thus contains both the Ireland of the cattle-herding Gaelic past and the Ulster of the Industrial Revolution; he considers this to have been a significant tension in his background. Heaney initially attended Anahorish Primary School, and when he was twelve years-old, he won a scholarship to St. Columb's College, a Roman Catholic boarding school situated in Derry. Heaney's brother, Christopher, was killed in a road accident at the age of four, while Heaney was studying at St. Columb's. The poems "Mid-Term Break" and "The Blackbird of Glanmore" focus on his brother's death.[9]
Career[edit source | editbeta]
1957–1969[edit source | editbeta]

Seamus Heaney in 1970

From "Digging"

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away

Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.

from "Digging", Death of a Naturalist (1966)
For more details on this part of Heaney's career, see his collections, Death of a Naturalist andDoor into the Dark.

In 1957, Heaney travelled to Belfast to study English Language and Literature at Queen's University Belfast. During his time in Belfast, he found a copy of Ted Hughes's Lupercal, which spurred him to write poetry. "Suddenly, the matter of contemporary poetry was the material of my own life," he has said.[3] He graduated in 1961 with a First Class Honours degree. During teacher training at St Joseph's Teacher Training College in Belfast (now merged with St Mary's, University College), Heaney went on a placement to St Thomas' secondary Intermediate School in west Belfast. The headmaster of this school was the writer Michael McLaverty from County Monaghan, who introduced Heaney to the poetry of Patrick Kavanagh.[10][11] With McLaverty's mentorship, Heaney first started to publish poetry, beginning in 1962. Hillal describes how McLaverty was like a foster father to the younger Belfast poet.[12] In the introduction to McLaverty's Collected works, Heaney summarised the poet's contribution and influence: "His voice was modestly pitched, he never sought the limelight, yet for all that, his place in our literature is secure."[13] Heaney's poem Fosterage, in the sequenceSinging School from North (1975) is dedicated to him.

In 1963, Heaney became a lecturer at St Joseph's and in the spring of 1963, after contributing various articles to local magazines, he came to the attention of Philip Hobsbaum, then an English lecturer at Queen's University. Hobsbaum was to set up a Belfast Group of local young poets (to mirror the success he had with the London group) and this would bring Heaney into contact with other Belfast poets such as Derek Mahon and Michael Longley. In August 1965 he married Marie Devlin, a school teacher and native of Ardboe, County Tyrone. (Devlin is a writer herself and, in 1994, published Over Nine Waves, a collection of traditional Irish myths and legends.) Heaney's first book, Eleven Poems, was published in November 1965 for the Queen's University Festival. In 1966, Faber and Faber published his first major volume, called Death of a Naturalist. This collection met with much critical acclaim and went on to win several awards, the Gregory Award for Young Writers and the Geoffrey Faber Prize.[11]Also in 1966, he was appointed as a lecturer in Modern English Literature at Queen's University Belfast and his first son, Michael, was born. A second son, Christopher, was born in 1968. That same year, with Michael Longley, Heaney took part in a reading tour calledRoom to Rhyme, which led to much exposure for the poet's work. In 1969, his second major volume, Door into the Dark, was published.
1970–1984[edit source | editbeta]
For more details on on this part of Heaney's career, see his collections, Wintering Out, North, Field Work and Selected Poems 1965-1975.

After a spell as guest lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, he returned to Queen's University in 1971. In 1972, Heaney left his lectureship at Belfast and moved to Dublin in the Republic of Ireland, working as a teacher at Carysfort College. In 1972, Wintering Out was published, and over the next few years Heaney began to give readings throughout Ireland, Britain, and the United States. In 1975, Heaney published his fourth volume, North. Also published was Stations. He became Head of English at Carysfort College in Dublin in 1976. His next volume, Field Work, was published in 1979. Selected Poems 1965-1975 and Preoccupations: Selected Prose 1968–1978 were published in 1980. When Aosdána, the national Irish Arts Council, was established in 1981, Heaney was among those elected into its first group (he was subsequently elected a Saoi, one of its five elders and its highest honour, in 1997).[14] Also in 1981, he left Carysfort to become visiting professor at Harvard University, where he was affiliated with Adams House. He was awarded two honorary doctorates, from Queen's University and from Fordham University in New York City (1982). At the Fordham commencement ceremony in 1982, Heaney delivered the commencement address in a 46-stanza poem entitled Verses for a Fordham Commencement.

As he was born and educated in Northern Ireland, Heaney has felt the need to emphasise that he was Irish and not British. Following the success of the Field Day Theatre Company's production of Brian Friel's Translations, Heaney joined the company's expanded Board of Directors in 1981, when the company's founders Brian Friel and Stephen Rea decided to make the company a permanent group.[15]In 1984, his mother, Margaret, died.[16]
1985–1999[edit source | editbeta]
For more details on on this part of Heaney's career, see his works, Station Island, The Haw Lantern, The Cure at Troy and The Spirit Level.

Seamus and Marie Heaney at the Dominican Church, Kraków, Poland, 4 October 1996

Heaney was Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard University (formerly Visiting Professor) 1985–1997 and Ralph Waldo Emerson Poet in Residence at Harvard 1998–2006.[17] In 1986, Heaney received a Litt.D. from Bates College. His father, Patrick, died soon after publication of the 1987 volume, The Haw Lantern. In 1988, a collection of critical essays called The Government of the Tongue was published.

In 1989, Heaney was elected Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford, which he held for a five-year term to 1994. The chair does not require residence in Oxford, and throughout this period he was dividing his time between Ireland and America. He also continued to give public readings; so well attended and keenly anticipated were these events that those who queued for tickets with such enthusiasm have sometimes been dubbed "Heaneyboppers", suggesting an almost teenybopper fanaticism on the part of his supporters.[18] Heaney was named an Honorary Patron of the University Philosophical Society, Trinity College, Dublin and was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (1991).[19] In 1993, Heaney guest-edited The Mays Anthology, a collection of new writing from students at the University of Oxford and University of Cambridge. In 1990, The Cure at Troy, a play based on Sophocles's Philoctetes,[20] was published to much acclaim, followed by Seeing Things in 1991.

Heaney was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995 for what the Nobel committee described as "works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past".[21] He was on holiday in Greece with his wife when the news broke and no one, not even journalists or his own children, could find him until he appeared at Dublin Airport two days later, though an Irish television camera traced him to Kalamata. Asked how it felt having his name to the Irish Nobel pantheon featuring William Butler Yeats,George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett, Heaney responded: "It's like being a little foothill at the bottom of a mountain range. You hope you just live up to it. It's extraordinary." He and Marie were immediately whisked straight from the airport to Áras an Uachtaráin for champagne with the then President Mary Robinson.[22]

Heaney's 1996 collection The Spirit Level won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and repeated the success with the release ofBeowulf: A New Translation.[23]
2000s[edit source | editbeta]

The Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry, which was officially opened at Queen's University Belfast in 2004
For more details on on this part of Heaney's career, see his works, The Burial at Thebes, Beacons of Bealtaine, District and Circle and Human Chain.

In 2000, Heaney was awarded an honorary doctorate and delivered the commencement address at the University of Pennsylvania.[24] In 2002, Heaney was awarded an honorary doctorate from Rhodes University and delivered a public lecture on "The Guttural Muse".[25]

In 2003, the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry was opened atQueen's University Belfast. It houses the Heaney Media Archive, a record of Heaney's entire oeuvre, along with a full catalogue of his radio and television presentations.[26] That same year Heaney, decided to lodge a substantial portion of his literary archive at Emory University, as a memorial to the work of William M. Chace, the university's recently retired president.[27][28] The Emory papers represented the largest repository of Heaney's work (1964–2003), donated to build their large existing archive from Irish writers including Yeats, Paul Muldoon, Ciaran Carson, Michael Longley and other members of the The Belfast Group.[29]

In 2003, when asked if there was any figure in popular culture who aroused interest in poetry and lyrics, Heaney praised rap artistEminem, saying "He has created a sense of what is possible. He has sent a voltage around a generation. He has done this not just through his subversive attitude but also his verbal energy."[30][31] He composed the poem "Beacons of Bealtaine" for the 2004 EU Enlargement. The poem was read by Heaney at a ceremony for the twenty-five leaders of the enlarged European Union arranged by the Irish EU presidency.

Heaney suffered a stroke from which he recovered in August 2006, but cancelled all public engagements for several months.[32] He was in County Donegal at the time on the occasion of the 75th birthday of Anne Friel, playwright Brian Friel's wife.[8][33] He read the works ofHenning Mankell, Donna Leon and Robert Harris while in hospital, and was visited at the time by Bill Clinton.[8][34]

Heaney's District and Circle won the 2006 T. S. Eliot Prize.[35] He became artist of honour in Østermarie, Denmark in 2008 and the Seamus Heaney Stræde (street) was named after him. In 2009, Heaney was presented with an Honorary-Life Membership award from the UCD Law Society, in recognition of his remarkable role as a literary figure.[36] Faber and Faber published Dennis O'Driscoll's bookStepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney in 2008; this has been described as the nearest thing to an autobiography of Heaney.[37] In 2009, Heaney was awarded the David Cohen Prize for Literature. He spoke at the West Belfast Festival 2010 in celebration of his mentor, the poet and novelist Michael MacLaverty, who had helped Heaney to first publish his poetry.[38]
2010s[edit source | editbeta]

In 2010, Faber published Human Chain, Heaney's twelfth collection. Human Chain was awarded the Forward Poetry Prize for Best Collection, one of the only major poetry prizes Heaney had never previously won, despite having been twice shortlisted.[39][40] The book, published 44 years after the poet's first, was inspired in part by Heaney's stroke in 2006 which left him "babyish" and "on the brink". Poet and Forward judge Ruth Padel described the work as "a collection of painful, honest, and delicately weighted poems...a wonderful and humane achievement".[39] Writer Colm Tóibín described Human Chain as "his best single volume for many years, and one that contains some of the best poems he has written... is a book of shades and memories, of things whispered, of journeys into the underworld, of elegies and translations, of echoes and silences."[41] In October 2010, the collection was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize.

Heaney was named one of "Britain's top 300 intellectuals" by The Observer in 2011, though the newspaper later published a correction acknowledging that "several individuals who would not claim to be British" had been featured, of which Heaney was one.[42] That same year, he contributed translations of Old Irish marginalia for Songs of the Scribe, an album by Traditional Singer in Residence of the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry, Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin.[43]

In December 2011, he donated his personal literary notes to the National Library of Ireland.[44] Even though he admitted he would likely have earned a fortune by auctioning them, Heaney personally packed up the boxes of notes and drafts and, accompanied by his son Michael, delivered them to the National Library.[45]
Work[edit source | editbeta]

Heaney's books make up two-thirds of the sales of living poets in the UK.[3] His work often deals with the local surroundings of Ireland, particularly in Northern Ireland, where he was born. Speaking of his early life and education, he commented "I learned that my local County Derry experience, which I had considered archaic and irrelevant to 'the modern world' was to be trusted. They taught me that trust and helped me to articulate it."[46] Death of a Naturalist (1966) and Door into the Dark (1969) mostly focus on the detail of rural, parochial life.[46] Allusions to sectarian difference, widespread in Northern Ireland through his lifetime, can be found in his poems. His books Wintering Out (1973) and North (1975) seek to interweave commentary on 'The Troubles' with a historical context and wider human experience.[46] Whilst some critics have accused Heaney of being "an apologist and a mythologizer" of the violence, Blake Morrison suggests the poet "has written poems directly about the Troubles as well as elegies for friends and acquaintances who have died in them; he has tried to discover a historical framework in which to interpret the current unrest; and he has taken on the mantle of public spokesman, someone looked to for comment and guidance... Yet he has also shown signs of deeply resenting this role, defending the right of poets to be private and apolitical, and questioning the extent to which poetry, however 'committed,' can influence the course of history." Shaun O'Connell in the New Boston Review notes that "those who see Seamus Heaney as a symbol of hope in a troubled land are not, of course, wrong to do so, though they may be missing much of the undercutting complexities of his poetry, the backwash of ironies which make him as bleak as he is bright."[46] O'Connell notes in his Boston Review critique of Station Island: "Again and again Heaney pulls back from political purposes; despite its emblems of savagery, Station Island lends no rhetorical comfort to Republicanism. Politic about politics, Station Island is less about a united Ireland than about a poet seeking religious and aesthetic unity".[47] Heaney is described by critic Terry Eagleton as "an enlightened cosmopolitan liberal",[48] refusing to be drawn. Eagleton suggests: "When the political is introduced... it is only in the context of what Heaney will or will not say."[49] Reflections on what Heaney identifies as "tribal conflict",[49] favour the description of people's lives and their voices, drawing out the 'psychic landscape'. His collections often recall the assassination of his family members and close friends, lynchings and bombings. Colm Tóibín wrote, "throughout his career there have been poems of simple evocation and description. His refusal to sum up or offer meaning is part of his tact."[41] Heaney published “Requiem for the Croppies” on the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, a poem that commemorates the Irish rebels of 1798. He has read the poem to both Catholic and Protestant audiences in Ireland. He commented "To read ‘'Requiem for the Croppies'’ wasn't to say ‘up the IRA’ or anything. It was silence-breaking rather than rabble-rousing.”[50] He stated “You don't have to love it. You just have to permit it.” He turned down the offer of laureateship partly for political reasons, commenting "I’ve nothing against the Queen personally: I had lunch at the Palace once upon a time". He stated that his "cultural starting point" was "off centre". His most commonly cited political statement came in 1982 when he objected to being included in an anthology of British poetry, despite being of Northern Irish birth. He has lived in the Republic of Ireland since 1972 and claimed his Irish rather than British nationality, responding

“Be advised my passport's green.
No glass of ours was ever raised
to toast the Queen.”