I.M. Seamus Heaney (1939 – 2013)

“The way we are living, / timorous or bold, / will have been our life.”

Seamus Heaney, who Robert Lowell once called “the most important Irish poet since Yeats,” died in Dublin on Friday at the age of 74, according to a report from the BBC. Heaney, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995, was also a playwright, translator, and lecturer. He is revered for evocative verse that matched formal acumen with detailed, memorable narrative, political insight, and seemingly effortless wisdom. His books made up two-thirds of the sales of living poets in the UK.

Here is a picture of Heaney and Derek Walcott. It was taken last March at the AWP Conference in Boston, where both poets were keynote speakers.

Heaney had recently been suffering ill health, according to the BBC, and died in a Dublin hospital. His 2010 book Human Chain was written after the poet suffered a stroke, with at least one poem, “Miracle,” inspired by the illness:

Miracle

Not the one who takes up his bed and walks
But the ones who have known him all along
And carry him in –

Their shoulders numb, the ache and stoop deeplocked
In their backs, the stretcher handles
Slippery with sweat. And no let up

Until he’s strapped on tight, made tiltable
And raised to the tiled roof, then lowered for healing.
Be mindful of them as they stand and wait

For the burn of the paid out ropes to cool,
Their slight lightheadedness and incredulity
To pass, those who had known him all along.

Heaney was born April 13, 1939 at Mossbawn, his family farmhouse, which was located between Castledawson and Toomebridge, and much of Heaney’s work depicts the Northern Irish countryside of his youth. Heaney is also known for his political engagement; some poems reflected sectarian divisions in Ireland, and others commented on The Troubles and placed them in historical context. Heaney was also a prolific elegist.

Here are links to some poems and a video of Heaney being interviewed by Paul Muldoon in 2008.

“Casualty”

“Digging”

“Elegy”

“Scaffolding”