Seamus Heaney R.I.P.

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John F
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Seamus Heaney R.I.P.

Post by John F » Sat Aug 31, 2013 1:42 am

A long obituary, well worth reading.

Seamus Heaney, Irish Poet of Soil and Strife, Dies at 74
By MARGALIT FOX
Published: August 30, 2013

Seamus Heaney, the 1995 Nobel laureate in literature, who was often called the greatest Irish poet since Yeats, died on Friday in Dublin. He was 74. His publisher, Faber & Faber, announced the death. The Irish poet Paul Muldoon, a longtime friend, said that Mr. Heaney was hospitalized after a fall on Thursday. Mr. Heaney had suffered a stroke in 2006.

In an address, President Michael D. Higgins of Ireland, himself a poet, praised Mr. Heaney’s “contribution to the republics of letters, conscience and humanity.” Enda Kenny, the Irish prime minister, said that Mr. Heaney’s death had brought “great sorrow to Ireland, to language and to literature.”

A Roman Catholic native of Northern Ireland, Mr. Heaney was renowned for work that powerfully evoked the beauty and blood that together have come to define the modern Irish condition. The author of more than a dozen collections of poetry, as well as critical essays and works for the stage, he repeatedly explored the strife and uncertainties that have afflicted his homeland, while managing simultaneously to steer clear of polemic.

Mr. Heaney (pronounced HEE-nee), who had made his home in Dublin since the 1970s, was known to a wide public for the profuse white hair and stentorian voice that befit his calling. He held lectureships at some of the world’s foremost universities, including Harvard, where, starting in the 1980s, he taught regularly for many years; Oxford; and the University of California, Berkeley.

As the trade magazine Publishers Weekly observed in 1995, Mr. Heaney “has an aura, if not a star power, shared by few contemporary poets, emanating as much from his leonine features and unpompous sense of civic responsibility as from the immediate accessibility of his lines.”

Throughout his work, Mr. Heaney was consumed with morality. In his hands, a peat bog is not merely an emblematic feature of the Irish landscape; it is also a spiritual quagmire, evoking the deep ethical conundrums that have long pervaded the place.

“Yeats, despite being quite well known, despite his public role, actually didn’t have anything like the celebrity or, frankly, the ability to touch the people in the way that Seamus did,” Mr. Muldoon, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the poetry editor at The New Yorker, said in an interview on Friday. “It was almost like he was indistinguishable from the country. He was like a rock star who also happened to be a poet.”

Mr. Heaney was enraptured, as he once put it, by “words as bearers of history and mystery.” His poetry, which had an epiphanic quality, was suffused with references to pre-Christian myth — Celtic, of course, but also that of ancient Greece. His style, linguistically dazzling, was nonetheless lacking in the obscurity that can attend poetic pyrotechnics.

At its best, Mr. Heaney’s work had both a meditative lyricism and an airy velocity. His lines could embody a dark, marshy melancholy, but as often as not they also communicated the wild onrushing joy of being alive. The result — work that was finely wrought yet notably straightforward — made Mr. Heaney one of the most widely read poets in the world...

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/31/arts/ ... at-74.html
John Francis

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