Tag Archives: Seamus Heaney

Craft or sullen art?

The word “sea” is small and easily uttered.
They utter it lightly who know least about it.
A vast ancient terror is locked in the name
like energy in an atom.
– George Mackay Brown, The Sea.

In spite of lashings of wind and rain, we met last night, 6th January, with Sara in the chair. As at previous January meetings, most people brought poems by other people. It was a lively and interesting evening.

Where I could find them, I have added links to the particular poems. Seamus Heaney, Dylan Thomas  and John Betjeman are reading their own poems, and the Billy Collins link is to a particularly charming animation. Each one is well worth reading/listening to, if you have the time!

Wales was represented by R.S. Thomas, Dylan Thomas and Gillian Clarke,  Ireland by Greg Delanty and Seamus Heaney, Scotland by Robert Burns, W.S. Graham and George Mackay Brown. Poets read in translation were Apollinaire and Wislawa Szymborska. From America we had poems by Robert Frost, W.S. Merwin, Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Stanley Kunitz and Dave Bonta. For England – no Chaucer or Shakespeare, but we heard others from John Clare to Jude Nutter by way of (in no particular order) Rupert Brooke, Helen Dunmore, David Caddy, W.E. Henley, Joyce Williams, David Williams, T.S. Eliot, Ewan MacPherson, Ted Hughes, John Betjeman and Rose Flint.

Next meeting: Monday 3rd February, with Ewa in the chair. The optional theme is rain and wind, or St Valentine’s Day for those of a romantic disposition.

Poet’s Voice workshops in Bath: please see separate page.

“Poetry is a way of looking at the world for the first time.” – W.S. Merwin

“Here is a work for poets –
Carve the runes
Then be content with silence.” – George Mackay Brown




Death of a poet, part 2

We listen to the news on Radio Four

‘I worked there,’ he says.
‘My first teaching job.’
We sense a way in.
‘You worked in Ireland?’ my daughter asks.
‘Six years.’ He moves around the small kitchen, restless.
We sit at the table drinking tea.
‘So – did you ever teach Seamus Heaney?’
She is bolder. He is far away. I wait.
‘He was too young. I studied at King’s College,’
and here the practised pause, for humour, then

A plate of biscuits appears.

Later, as that sonorous Irish brogue fills the room –
the radio his constant companion, a touch too loud for us –
he returns to the subject.
‘Listen to this,’ he says, pressing the phone button for speaker.
A saved message from last December,
and that same soft accent sends greetings
to a well-remembered teacher.
‘I’ve not heard from him for forty years,’
he wonders. ‘No idea how he got this number.’
He shakes his head. We smile.

                                                                 Jo Waterworth

Noli Timere

The last thing the poet wrote
did not flow from his squat pen
but from the touch of fingertips
(predictive text, I’d guess, switched off)
tapping out in speechless code
encrypted comfort for his wife:

“Don’t be afraid”.

Ama Bolton

Death of a poet

So sad to hear the news today of the death of that great man, Seamus Heaney.

Today’s post from The Morning Porch:

A jay’s call isn’t harsh, a nuthatch’s isn’t querulous: so hard to hear the music of what happens. Every day some poet dies from the strain.

Postscript – 1st September – Alistair Peebles, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in Stromness in 2008, has just posted a very nice story about Seamus Heaney:

In 1994, on his second visit to the St Magnus Festival, I was given the job of looking after Seamus Heaney. Driving him around and making sure he was at places on time. All quite successful. He didn’t like to be early, which probably helped. But he didn’t mind waiting and signing books after the readings, and he was easy about meeting people …

– read more on his blog.

And finally, courtesy of the Poetry Can newsletter:

Poem of the Month


And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightening of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully-grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you’ll park or capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open

Seamus Heaney