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Listening Back To Seamus Heaney

With the death of Nobel-Prize-winning Irish poet Seamus Heaney, we listen back to our 2006 interview with him.

File photo of the Irish poet Seamus Heaney. Heaney, whose lyrical works portray the pain of sectarian strife and the joy of growing up in a Roman Catholic farming family. (AP)

File photo of the Irish poet Seamus Heaney. Heaney, whose lyrical works portray the pain of sectarian strife and the joy of growing up in a Roman Catholic farming family. (AP)

The great Irish poet Seamus Heaney died Friday in Dublin.  He was 74.  Heaney was a Nobel Prize winner who wrote poetry of such earthy, brilliant power and grace that it brought hard men to tears, women too, and the whole world to remember the glory of a great poem.

Seamus Heaney’s work ranged over myth and legend, politics and violence and the classics.  And over soil and farm and sweat and tools.  The moment of writing was, for him he said, a moment of joy.  The moment of reading was for us the same.

This hour, On Point:  we listen back to a 2006 interview with the great now-late Seamus Heaney.

- Tom Ashbrook

Guest

Seamus Heaney, Irish poet and Nobel Prize laureate. He passed away last week at the age of 74.

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times: Seamus Heaney, Irish Poet of Soil and Strife, Dies – “Mr. Heaney, who was born in Northern Ireland but moved to Dublin in his later years, is recognized as one of the major poets of the 20th century. His fellow poet Robert Lowell described Mr. Heaney as the ‘most important Irish poet since Yeats.’”

BBC: Seamus Heaney death: Irish reaction – “Irish President Michael D Higgins said: ‘Generations of Irish people will have been familiar with Seamus’ poems. Scholars all over the world will have gained from the depth of the critical essays, and so many rights organisations will want to thank him for all the solidarity he gave to the struggles within the republic of conscience.’”

The Telegraph: Seamus Heaney: his 10 best poems

“Death of a Naturalist
From Death of a Naturalist, published 1966:

‘But best of all was the warm thick slobber

Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water

In the shade of the banks. Here, every spring

I would fill jampotfuls of the jellied

Specks to range on window-sills at home,

On shelves at school, and wait and watch until

The fattening dots burst into nimble-

Swimming tadpoles.’”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Mort Sinclair

    In the past few months, I have read and heard multiple debates about the value of studying or majoring in English, given the so-called need/demand for STEM-trained young people, yet we have an extraordinarily publicized death of an Irish poet, with honorifics appearing everywhere in print and broadcast media, as if–imagine!–poetry matters. Oh, the irony!!

    Sincerely,
    An English Teacher

    • jefe68

      Well said sir.

  • nj_v2

    This is a sad and great loss of a remarkably sensitive, observant, and talented mind.

    His words always have a directness and honesty, and while evocative, lively, and immediate, are never self-conscious or overblown.

    Thanks for the show.

  • christiancreole

    Thanks for sharing the interview.
    Poets precisely obfuscate
    to crystalize the readers take.

  • jefe68

    In this one poem lies the very essence of culture filtered through the lens of high art.
    If you don’t see it and feel it you should check your pulse.
    You might be dead.

    Without poets what would the world be? Would it be one filled with lawyers, engineers, boring pop stars and those who think we don’t need men like Seamus Heaney? What a sad and boring place it would be without poets, painters, jazz musicians and dreamers.

    RIP Seamus Heaney.

  • TJPhoto40

    Thanks for this rebroadcast with a poet who is a rare treat–his words rich and resonant, his personality and articulation compelling in their own way. This was a man who knew poetry from the inside, and helped to reveal it.

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