Seamus Heaney dies aged 74

The Irish poet and Nobel laureate has died.

The poet Seamus Heaney has died aged 74. He had recently suffered from ill health, the BBC has reported.

Heaney, who won many awards over the course of his career, including the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995 and the T S Eliot Prize in 2006, is considered by many to be one of the foremost Irish poets of the last century. In 2009, the critic John Sutherland dubbed Heaney "the greatest poet of our age". Heaney's work, including poems like "Digging" from the 1966 collection Death of a Naturalist and his translation of Beowulf, is well-known and loved around the world, having appeared on many school exam syllabuses. 

Reviewing Heaney's 2010 collection Human Chain for the New Statesman, Jeremy Noel-Tod wrote that:

Like Cowper, Heaney is a reflective, rural poet, moving easily between man and landscape and finding a moral in any humble object. Again like Cowper, his characteristic style gently ironises poetry's grand manner with conversational self-consciousness and modest domesticity. Memorable as many of Heaney's lines are, it is hard to imagine anyone being driven wild by their beauty. It is poetry that "cheers but not inebriates" - as Cowper said of his cup of tea.

Seamus Heaney at the Hay Festival in 2006. Photo: Getty

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

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On Wheels

A new poem by Patrick Mackie

The hills swarm and soften towards the end of the day just as
flames do in a fireplace as the evening
loosens and breaks open and lets out night.
A nasty, grotesque, impatient year ended,
and the new one will be bitter,
tired, opaque. Words wrangle in every inch of air,
their mouths wide open in stupid shock
at what they have just heard every time they hear anything. Venus,
though, blazes with heavy wobbles of albeit frozen
light. Brecht, who I like to call my
brother just as he called Shelley his,
has a short late poem where he sits by a roadside, waiting
while someone changes the wheel on his car,
watching with impatience, despite not liking
either the place that he is coming from or
the place that he is going to. We call it
connectivity when in truth it is just aggression
and imitation writ ever larger. Poems, though,
are forms of infinite and wry but also briskly
impatient patience. Brecht’s poem seems to end,
for instance, almost before you
can read it. It wheels. The goddess is just a big, bright
wilderness but then soon enough she clothes
herself again in the openness of night and I lose her.

Patrick Mackie’s latest collection, The Further Adventures Of The Lives Of The Saints, is published by CB Editions.

This article first appeared in the 18 May 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Age of Lies

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