Seamus Heaney was an Irish poet, playwright and translator. He received the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature. He died in 2013.
Poor old Gerry Adams just can’t catch a break. No matter what he does now, up come the ghosts of the republican movement’s past, and their relatives, to remind the rest of us that, unfortunately, he hasn’t retired disgracefully and just disappeared.
As in politics and society, so in literature. In Northern Ireland, male voices always dominated. Growing up during the Troubles, it was poets such as Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley and Paul Muldoon who gave voice to the trauma, and male novelists such as Bernard MacLaverty who told the stories that sought to make sense of it all.
There is a dichotomy in Irish writing that acclaim, awards and even sales never seems to dent. We have our literary greats, people like Seamus Heaney, Anne Enright and Colm Tóibín – and then we have our genre writers,who, despite their success, somehow seem to occupy a second class of respectability.
Seamus Deane, who has died after a short illness at the age of 81 years, achieved international standing as a literary critic, academic, novelist and poet. Emerging from the historically oppressed and underprivileged community of Derry nationalists, he made his way to the top in a variety of spheres by virtue of his eloquence, intelligence and unrelenting hard work.
Over the past year people have turned frequently to poetry in an effort to make sense of the bizarre changes happening to our world. Derek Mahon's 'Everything is Going to be All Right' got trotted out quite a bit but no phrase quite caught the public imagination like Heaney's: 'If we can winter this one out, we can summer anywhere'. The line gave us hope that the pandemic was temporary and, if we were patient, we'd come out the other side to a brighter future. A line from an interview rather than a poem, the simple phrase demonstrates Heaney's skill at finding hope in dark places, something that shines through many of his poems on the Leaving Cert course.
That’s from The Cure at Troy, Seamus Heaney’s 1990 version of a play by Sophocles, and it has been referenced and quoted by various politicians, most recently Joe Biden during his acceptance speech as the Democratic candidate chosen to oppose Donald Trump for the US presidency.
Joe Biden accepted the Democratic Party nomination for the White House on Thursday, vowing to heal a United States battered by a deadly pandemic and divided by four years of Donald Trump's presidency.
After his death last year, the London Independent newspaper described Seamus Heaney as "probably the best-known poet in the world". According to the BBC, Heaney's books of poetry at one time made up two-thirds of the sales of all living poets in the UK.
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