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
For all that you have done, we are grateful.