Seamus Heaney 3 April, 1939 – 30 August, 2013


So every time I think of Seamus Heaney, I hear Star St, Germain in my head, yelling, “Oh, gawd – can’t we just skip ahead to the part where the monster gets his arm ripped off?!” That’s because Heaney did the best translation of Beowulf, freaking ever.* But truly, his own work shows brightest.

Today we remember Seamus Heaney, who passed away this morning at the age of 74. He was often spoken of as the greatest Irish poet since Yeats, and in 1995 won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The New York Times says this:

After he gained fame with “Death of a Naturalist,” Mr. Heaney never eased his pace. Publishing more than a dozen major collections between 1966 and 2010 — his later volumes include “The Spirit Level,” “District and Circle” and “Bog Poems” — he became acknowledged as a major literary voice of the 20th century. Robert Lowell, for one, called him the “most important Irish poet since Yeats.”

He also wrote two plays, four works on the process of poetry and a well-regarded translation of “Beowulf.” He won dozens of accolades, among them the French Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres in 1996 and the T. S. Eliot Prize in 2006.

Mr. Heaney was that rarity among modern poets: not only critically praised but also widely read. Millions of readers bought his books, finding his verse eminently accessible, with its familiar images and universal thoughts.

Read the whole obituary here. Poetry after the cut.

A Kite for Aibhín
After ‘L’Aquilone’ by Giovanni Pascoli (1855-1912)

Air from another life and time and place,
Pale blue heavenly air is supporting
A white wing beating high against the breeze,

And yes, it is a kite! As when one afternoon
All of us there trooped out
Among the briar hedges and stripped thorn,

I take my stand again, halt opposite
Anahorish Hill to scan the blue,
Back in that field to launch our long-tailed comet.

And now it hovers, tugs, veers, dives askew,
Lifts itself, goes with the wind until
It rises to loud cheers from us below.

Rises, and my hand is like a spindle
Unspooling, the kite a thin-stemmed flower
Climbing and carrying, carrying farther, higher

The longing in the breast and planted feet
And gazing face and heart of the kite flier
Until string breaks and—separate, elate—

The kite takes off, itself alone, a windfall.

– Seamus Heaney

* but that doesn’t mean that you should read that as a serial novel.

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