Seamus Heaney Source: New York Times, July 12, 2006
Dear Seamus Heaney,
I suspect you wouldn’t care how I addressed you but when I wrote, ‘Dear Seamus,’ it just didn’t feel right so I’ll go with Seamus Heaney, if that’s okay.
Your first anniversary has been very much on my mind for weeks now. It never seems to be the anniversary that ‘gets’ me but the time around it and the end of August is a time that tends to be full of bittersweetness anyway ~ a time of endings or should I say ‘new beginnings?’
I guess you’d go for somewhere in the middle. Your poetry catches me all the time with places of the heart and mind that it identifies – places that resonate totally, and describe exactly, but for which I had never found a name.
While you died on August 30th last year, your poetry lives on with a freshness that I didn’t think possible. I was afraid that it would somehow fall with the Autumn leaves and never come back.
How could I have been so foolish? You were so tuned into the seasons of life; the twists and turns of the year; the everyday and the forever.
More than anything, I’ve been struck in the last year by the way you, more than any other poet I’ve read, captured sound in your work. While I know I will never hear your unique reading voice live again, I find the sounds that ring through your poems ever-comforting and present. I think of so many poems here but The Forge is a special favourite.
I wonder how you’d like to be remembered on your anniversary tomorrow. It seems that you paved the way for others ~ as in Changes with lines like:
So tender, I said, ‘Remember this.
It will be good for you to retrace this path
when you have grown away and stand at last
at the very centre of the empty city.’
(from: Changes by Seamus Heaney)
I doubt you’d want tears, or at least many of them. Would you like people to read your poems? (I doubt many will be able to resist!) Maybe you’d like people to try writing some lines of their own?
My absolute inclination is to go and pick blackberries in a wild, wild place with all my senses open to nature, words and lines you wrote:
Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
(from: Blackberry-Picking by Seamus Heaney)
Your presence will be all around in this wild place:
Between heather and marigold,
Between sphagnum and buttercup,
Between dandelion and broom,
Between forget-me-not and honeysuckle,
As between clear blue and cloud,
Between haystack and sunset sky,
Between oak tree and slated roof,
I had my existence. I was there.
Me in place and place in me.
Where can it be found again,
An elsewhere world, beyond
Maps and atlases,
Where all is woven into
And of itself, like a nest
Of crosshatched grass blades?
(from: A Herbal by Seamus Heaney)
With all my love and thanks,