Saying goodbye to Seamus Heaney, Ireland’s best loved poet, has touched everyone in the country. All of us are aware of the passing of a very special, big hearted, generous, kind man who was a true wordsmith and had a rare ability to reach us with his poems. One of the world’s greatest writers, his poetry was firmly anchored in Irish soil but stretched out across the world to many.
I first met him when he visited my school when I was about twelve and we were surprised to find a lively young poet, talking to us about his first book of poems instead of a priest or nun, home from the missions. As he began to read I still remember being overwhelmed by his words and that sense that he was a living, breathing, real person and had the ability to transport me with his poems. Encouraged, I began to write.
Years later when my own books began to be published I was privileged to meet Seamus… he always made me laugh and put me at ease. He was that kind of man… A Nobel winning poet with an immense kindness and ability to inspire and encourage others.
At his funeral, his son Michael told us that a few minutes before he died Seamus had sent a text to his beloved wife Marie ‘Noli timere’ – don’t be afraid. His final words of farewell demonstrating the kind of man he truly was.
As chairperson of Irish PEN in 2005 I was very honoured to be involved in the presentation of Irish PEN’s Award for Literature to Seamus Heaney for his immense contribution to Irish literature.
“Between my finger and my thumb, the squat pen rests
I’ll dig with it”
Seamus Heaney 1939-2013