Friday, 30 August 2013

THE DEATH OF SEAMUS HEANEY

I met Seamus Heaney once - he was celebrating the tenth anniversary of his win of the Nobel prize - and I was part of the dinner party (a guest of Tamar Yoseloff).  We spoke briefly, and he called me "Hot Toddy".  I am very sad - even unexpectedly moved - to learn of his untimely death at the age of 74.  Heaney was the greatest living traditional, lyric poet, since Philip Larkin.  He was not as great as Yeats, or Kavanagh, but he was a poetic genius, and, what is more, he reached out to the common reader in a way that was astounding; his warmth was palpable - he cared about readers and people.  I feel that his poetry will be judged to have shied away too much from the themes of love and bodily passion that made Yeats so universal - and his over reliance on the Classical tradition was perhaps old-fashioned - but in his best poems, no one could match his moral vision, his sonic intelligence, and his gravitas. He saw far and wide. I don't think he was a very witty poet, but he was a great poet.  Now that he is gone, the English world has very few giants of lyric poetry left - perhaps only Walcott and Hill, and a few others.  This is a sad day for poetry.
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