Seamus Heaney was here in town, at the Mercantile Library, just a few months before his death. And I wasn’t paying enough attention – so I missed his appearance.
I’ve been spending energy learning about him and reading his poetry since his death. One of the first pieces of his I discovered was his commencement address at Fordham University in 1982. Uniquely, it was in verse – lyrical, humorous, sparkling and then seriously – rhyming about love and survival. I fell in love with Seamus instantly upon reading it, all the different pieces of him on display – and read it to my Writers Group the next day, so they could love its cleverness, bitterness and joy, too.
All his books were sold out at Joseph-Beth, so I waited till fresh ones made their ways to the shelves, and chose Human Chain, mostly written during the late 2000s, and just published in 2010. Amazing poems, with a tight grip on reality – the smell and feel and touch of coal, of eels, of elderberry and rain. Many lines about the body and its workings, the muscles clenching, moving, in pain. Love in many shades, from an unembraced father to the welcoming of a new babe.
A man with much love, and still a hard edge and clear eye. Rest easy, Seamus. And perhaps return soon?