Appreciating Words: Seamus Heaney’s Grand Gift

By Frank Bolger - Last update

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News of the passing of the great Seamus Heaney was felt by an astonishing array of people. The repercussions went far beyond his circle of loved ones; they were felt the world over by lovers of language and literature. Presidents, poets and a variety of public figures joined the chorus to acclaim a writer who will surely take his place among this country’s illustrious list of literary greats.

While Heaney was a Nobel Laureate, exceptionally well read and held prominent posts in some of the most prestigious universities in the world, his poetry was not aimed at the academics or the intelligentsia; it was intended to be for everyone – for all sons of the soil, as the man himself was.

What Heaney inspired and, indeed, reawakened in many was the realisation that well-crafted words hold universal appeal. Poetry can ignite the imagination and enlarge one’s capacity to understand and empathise with others.

The lines from Heaney’s poem ‘Postscript’, for instance, seem to encapsulate not only the poet’s marked ability to apprehend the mystery of the everyday, nor his or her role in attempting to express, but the felt experience of all by all:

‘You are neither here nor there,/ A hurry through which known and strange things pass/ As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways/ And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.’


Frank Bolger

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