In Memoriam, Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney, the poet laureate of Ireland, died on Friday. As I’ve written about here before, Ireland is a very special place to me. For a while, I thought I was going to study Irish literature. That didn’t happen, but I’ve spent a lot of time reading Heaney, and Nuala ni Dhomhnaill, and William Butler Yeats, and Eavan Boland, and Paul Muldoon. I know contemporary Irish literature better than I know contemporary British literature, better perhaps than I know contemporary American literature. I’m an Irish American, and the literary tradition in Ireland moves me and wounds me and puts me back together again.

I can’t teach poetry without speaking about Heaney, without using examples from his beautiful oeuvre, without hearing his voice in my head.

I wouldn’t call romance a major theme in Heaney’s writing, but he did write several poems about his wife that I find deeply moving: “Night Drive” (“Your ordinariness was renewed there” makes me shiver) and “Honeymoon Flight” (which isn’t available online, but which ends, “Travellers at this point only can trust”).

When I write this week, I’ll be thinking of his words from, “The Flight Path”: “If I do write something, / Whatever it is, I’ll be writing for myself.”

Chuid eile i síocháin, Seamus.

Author: Emma

Emma is a novelist, full-time mama, recovering academic, and former political staffer. When she’s not reading or writing, she loves her twins' hugs, her husband’s cooking, her cat’s whiskers, her dog’s tail, and Earl Grey tea.

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