Seamus Heaney: a tribute

SEAMUS HEANEY (1939-2013)

Seamus HeaneyIt is only 6 months since the greatest Irish poet since Yeats and a towering figure in international literature stepped on to Oxford’s Sheldonian stage to deliver the Chancellor’s lecture. There followed just more than an hour of soft and moving readings and a conversation with his friend, the writer Kevin Crossley-Holland, where we, the audience, were invited to eavesdrop and share his thoughts and experiences, a rare privilege. Afterwards, he looked up at the never-ending queue awaiting his signature on their volume of poetry and said: ‘It’ll take an hour but I must sign them all, they may have come some distance.’

Those of us who spent time with him during that day were with a man you felt you already knew, so warmly familiar yet also delightfully courteous and charming was his demeanour. To think his last line is written is a cruel blow to all of us who love literature but that he came our way once will always be a treasured memory.

And so by night and day to be transported
Through galleried earth. with them, the only relict
Of all that I belonged to, hurtled forward,
Reflecting in a window-mirror backed
By blasting weeping rock-walls

from District and Circle

Graham Benson
Deputy Chairman
The Oxford Literary Festival