Friday, September 06, 2013

Seamus Heaney in Michigan, 1999

Seamus Heaney (1939-2013) was a Nobel Prize-winning poet, but he was also a real person. On November 15, 1999, we shook hands and he graciously autographed a copy of his Opened Ground: Selected Poems, 1966-1996. On that date he was sixty years old, but with his craggy features and his eyes squinting from the wind and sun of Ireland, he could have been Methuselah. He also resembled, at least somewhat, the actor Christopher Plummer.
Getting the Picture: Reflections on Art and Artists in Ireland
Seamus Heaney
Monday, November 15, 5 pm [1999]
Rackham Hall Amphitheatre,  915 E. Washington Street
The celebrated poet and Nobel-Prize winner will speak on Irish culture.
Rackham Hall Amphitheatre at the University of Michigan, a venue that seats about 225 people, was not full, but Heaney was wonderful, choosing his words with care and in a courtly manner, delivering them sonorously and with an unmistakably Irish inflection. I loved it. 
Not uncoincidentally, earlier that year I had travelled around Ireland for a stint with Jen and Sarah. Funny to think, but "Livin' la Vida Loca" was at the top of the pops just about everywhere in the world that summer -- including Ireland.

I found a slip of paper in my copy of Opened Ground the other day. On it was written a line of Heaney's poetry I'd scrawled out: "Of falange and piston pitched along the ground." A nice snap to that. 

Farewell, Seamus Heaney, RIP.

Today's Rune: Separation (Reversed). 

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