Seamus Heaney 1939-2013

Seamus Heaney 1939-2013

I first read Seamus Heaney when I was a teenager. I’d never read a poet that made much sense to me before, but with Digging Heaney opened the door to the art for me. He wrote poems about the world of my parents, somewhere I had only experience on Summer holidays and in the sound of their accents and stories. Their voices and sensibilities came to life afresh in his words and I found a new way of viewing things through their eyes. I could see anew and clearly what had always been there.

Other poets followed but Seamus led. 

20 years later I found myself working at Faber and Faber. For a working class boy from the Midlands, that in itself was a source of awe, but to work with Seamus Heaney? I was lucky enough to meet him a good many and he was a gentle, kind man with a rare aura of wisdom. Perhaps because he was. He was fun too, a nip of whisky before the sales conference reading. And what a reader, once seen and heard, never forgotten.  

One day early in my time at Faber I booked the boardroom for a meeting. On arrival, looking through the glass door I saw Seamus Heaney sitting at the table writing. We hovered for a moment toying with whether to point out the booking, then went off to find another room. I don’t know what he was writing, his shopping list perhaps, but I like to think that we failed to interrupt a poem, a magic that was taking place as we hovered. I hope so.

Céad slán Seamus 



‘Wherever that man went, he went gratefully’ The Guardian obituary. And a life in pictures.

For all that you have done, we are grateful.


First you strategically position your pieces…

Some months ago I used this recording of a scene from Independence Day to refer to Amazon’s moves into publishing. It would seem that Forbes thinks Amazon has been playing a very long game. An excellent article and while I’m not totally convinced of their infallibility  I’m sure that Amazon is absolutely thinking several moves ahead. 2012 is going to be a very interesting year. (Hat tip to Eoin Purcell)

Twas the Thursday before Christmas

And frankly I’m all tuckered out. It’s been a long year and I share Charlie Brooker’s view of 2011. I’m only hoping that the season opener doesn’t involve North Korea in any dramatic way whatsoever. Because there’s only one way to write that episode.

For a little recuperation I’m going to pop myself off the grid for a week or so and read some books and maybe even do some offline writing myself. Its lovely and summery here in Christchurch and I’m  looking forward to recharging the batteries in the sunshine. As a final round-up take a look at Robert McCrum’s 50 things he’s learned about the literary life.

Its been a really interesting experience writing this blog these past few months and I’d like to thank you for reading it. I hope some of what I’ve written has been useful or interesting to you. For me, the act of writing has been enormously useful in itself and is certainly helping me shape my thinking better.  While I don’t think I’m quite there with this blog yet, I’ve learned a lot and I’ve been inspired by paying really close attention to the wealth of interesting thinking across the book world this year. So I’ll be pondering how to improve things over the holidays and I’m keen to make it way better in 2012. And I have no doubt that 2012 will, for the book world at least, be no less eventful.

Take it steady, enjoy the holidays and see you in a few days.