Seamus Heaney is on my mind today, because he’s gone now.
Of course, I had to go to youtube and watch him read some poems; and then remember when he came to Iowa City to do a reading and I took Sweeney Astray for him to sign. By then Sweeney was no longer a new book, out for 13 years (in fact it was the only book available at the bookstore) but Seamus Heaney said, “Ah Sweeney, how good to see Sweeney!” as if I had done him a favor in asking him to sign this book.
Sweeney Astray is the story of a man cursed in battle, made mad, transformed into a creature that lives in treetops, survives on cress and water, lost to his former life, and alone. It is a haunting piece. One never forgets Sweeney. But more than that, was that lovely moment of grace at the signing. I felt as if we–Seamus Heaney and me!– were joint friends of the haunted Sweeney.
And here’s Seamus Heaney reading one of his best-known poems “Digging.”
Listening to him makes me want to do better, try harder, go deeper. But it’s August in Iowa. Against that yearning is set the torpor of too many, too-hot days. I feel as if I am operating in slow motion. So how to break through, slug out of the sluggishness.
Take pen in hand, turn off the computer, open the notebook, dig.
Thank you, Seamus Heaney.