Saturday, 31 August 2013

Words for Seamus Heaney

For Séamus Heaney 
13 April 1939 – 30 August 2013

To call this a poem would not serve the memory of a master craftsman but here are some words that emerged on a day when poetry and one very special poet was constantly on my mind. Séamus Heaney was as close as this island had to a spiritual leader, as he carefully negotiated the gulfs between modernity and tradition, republican and unionist, and showed us that these and other gulfs were merely cracks. He led us halfway to healing.

I somehow feel that I knew him, both through his poetry and his sons, who were in college when I was and were warm, intelligent and generous men.

My thoughts are with them and all his family.

(for Séamus Heaney)

"Ah, no; the years, the years
Down their carved names the rain-drop ploughs" (Thomas Hardy)

You made rubbings
of the marks of death.
easing them carefully
onto the page

worn words rising
from crumbling stone.

The strong hands of death
ease you
into the earth
but your careful marks
will outlive


  1. I didn't know!
    I love 'Digging'.
    A real loss; a touchstone and a mouthpiece for the Emerald Isle.
    Although "I've no spade to follow" such a man I might be entitling my next etchings, my 'careful marks' 'Halfway to Healing'.
    Hope that might be ok...?

    But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.
    Between my finger and my thumb
    The squat pen rests.
    I’ll dig with it

    1. It's been wall to wall Heaney here in Ireland. A great sense of loss even amoung people who would generally think poets should wear bells around their necks.
      As for the phrase, use away. 'Twould be an honour, sir. Although you may find that your last paragraph attracts some copyright lawyers...