Seamus Heaney talk by Graham Fawcett 10 April
Seamus Heaney talk
by Graham Fawcett
Thursday 10 April 6.30pm
Tickets: £10 or £25 with buffet supper afterwards.
‘The fact of the matter is that the most unexpected and miraculous thing in my life was the arrival in it of poetry itself – as a vocation and an elevation almost.’
Seamus Heaney, in ‘The Art of Poetry’ No.75, interviewed by Henri Cole in The Paris Review, Autumn 1997, no. 144
Three days before what would have been, and still is, Seamus Heaney’s 75th birthday, Graham Fawcett reflects on the exhilarating range of Heaney’s achievement over nearly fifty years. His momentous poetic début came in 1966 with Death of A Naturalist, in which he sings with passion, craft and clarity about the world within a world around him during his early life in rural Northern Ireland.
Nobel Prize laureate in 1995, and outstanding translator of Beowulf, two plays by Sophocles and poetry from Irish, Middle Scots, Latin, Polish and the Italian of Dante, Heaney wrote more than twenty books of poetry and criticism. Hailed as the finest Irish poet since Yeats, Heaney’s stirring legacy is that of a man whose abiding concern was to sing simply and wonderfully of Ireland, her language and history, and the crafts and customs of a rural heritage past and present, and who did not flinch from making the suffering of modern Ireland his poet’s business.
After Heaney’s death, on 30 August 2013, the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, said that for his “brothers and sisters in poetry … he came to be the poet we all measured ourselves against and he demonstrated the true vocational nature of his art for every moment of his life. He is irreplaceable.” Many poets spoke too of his enduring generosity towards others and the unassuming manner and lightness of touch with which he welcomed all who came across him. When Graham Fawcett had the opportunity to meet Heaney in 2009 and happened to mention to him that the first reading course he gave (to London Poetry School audiences in 1998) was called Heaney to Homer and Back, Heaney said, ‘I’m glad you came back’.
When all the others were away at Mass
I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.
They broke the silence, let fall one by one
Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:
Cold comforts set between us, things to share
Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes
From each other’s work would bring us to our senses.
So while the parish priest at her bedside
Went hammer and tongs at prayers for the dying
And some were responding and some crying
I remembered her head bent towards my head,
Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives –
Never closer the whole rest of our lives.
in Seamus Heaney, The Haw Lantern (Faber, 1987)
GRAHAM FAWCETT gives courses, seminars, tutorials, lectures, poetry lunches, and other one-day events on reading and writing poetry. He has been a tutor for The Poetry School since 1997, devising and teaching new courses on poetry past and present from around the world. He has written and presented radio programmes about literature and music on BBC Radio 3 for many years. His acclaimed lectures are poetry performances including reading and background and life history.
Graham Fawcett lectures at Sladers Yard DATES FOR THE DIARY:
Robert Frost : Thursday 12 June.