Ireland’s Great Poet, Dead at 74

Aug 30, 2013 by

Seamus Heaney, Nobel laureate and poet

Seamus Heaney, Nobel laureate and poet

Sad news from Ireland today–Irish poet and Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney has died at age 74.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said Mr Heaney’s death

“brings great sorrow to Ireland, to language and to literature.
Today, it would take Seamus Heaney himself to describe the depth of his loss to us as a nation.
He belongs with Joyce, Yeats, Shaw and Beckett in the pantheon of our greatest literary exponents.”

I had the privilege of meeting Seamus Heaney once at Emory University here in Atlanta, which has the largest repository of Heaney’s works outside of Ireland. He was funny, nimble beyond belief with his words, and very approachable. I was in awe of him (Celtophile + English major, meeting Seamus Heaney= fangirl overload), but managed to acquit myself well. It sounds hokey, but I felt as though I had been granted an audience with one of Ireland’s ancient bards, who spoke not only the words of Ireland, but her soul and heart as well.

If you have never read Heaney’s poetry, I recommend starting with “Death of a Naturalist”, 1966, a collection of 34 short poems, including the well-known “Digging”, “Mid-Term Break”(about his brother’s death) and “Death of a Naturalist”.
Here is a 1976 clip of Heaney reading his poem, “Bogland”:

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