MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

“Noli Timere”: Seamus Heaney Lives On

Seamus Heaney in 1970; photo (c) Simon Garbutt

Sad news of the death of Seamus Heaney on Friday. Today his funeral was held at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook in south Dublin. Heaney’s final words to his wife, Marie — via text message from his hospital bed — were reported to have been in Latin: “Noli timere” (“Don’t be afraid”).

Heartening to see evidence of a culture where poetry still seems to matter: The Irish Times has been offering widespread coverage of Heaney’s legacy, and, according to The Guardian, at Sunday’s All Ireland Galiec football semi-final between Kerry and Dublin, “more than 80,000 spectators clapped for two minutes in appreciation of Ireland’s national poet.”

In a post for The New York Review of Books, Christopher Benfey recalls what he learned from Heaney, including “the un-teachable part” of writing poetry, the part related to “Lorca’s notion of duende, a mysterious dark fire of inspiration, a demonic rage, which, as I remember, Lorca associated with bullfighting and flamenco.”

“Some poems were like drawings, he used to say, gesturing with a quick downward zigzagging stroke of the pen, and some were like paintings. You were lucky if the poem came quickly, all in one piece. He would often quote Frost, from “The Figure a Poem Makes”: “like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting.”

The continued outpouring of tributes and memories has been remarkable. Here’s a sampling:

Robert Pinsky remembers the Irish poet

Tributes from the poetry world

Videos of Heaney reading his poems

Dan Chiasson’s appreciation

Andrew O’Hagan recalls his travels with the poet

And Maria Popova recounts Heaney’s
Nobel Prize acceptance speech and includes a clip of the poet reading the title poem from Death of a Naturalist.

Filed under: poetry


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