Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Seamus Heaney, Irish poet dead at 74

Ireland buried its famous poet, Seamus Heaney, yesterday, and according to The Associated Press, his last words, texted to his wife minutes before he passed away were, "Noli timere!" Don't be afraid.
Seems the Irish poet was speaking, not only to his widow but to the world, at the same time.
Those words cut through so much of the blarney that passes for public and political discourse today when terrorist and terrorism can and does abruptly pop out of the next corner of any street in any city, just when it is least expected.
And when the threat of radioactive water, higher than any other nuclear meltdown, is going to be "contained" by an untested wall of ice from flowing into the Pacific Ocean, where the damage to human and aquatic life is unknown.
And when the speed of the growing divide between the 'have's' and the 'have-not's' has never been faster, nor more permanent....
And when the political will to act collaboratively, among nations, seems to be so weak as to be unable to sustain the most meagre of a trickle of water from a blocked spigot..
And when the religions of the world (Heaney was raised in the Roman Catholic school in Northern Ireland) seem unable to speak to each other in words of reconciliation, compassion and tolerance...
And when the threat of a natural holocaust, with rising temperatures, increased frequency and duration of forest fires, protracted droughts, violent storms send signs of the destruction of the planet's environment through human pollution and erosion of the atmosphere, without the accompanying collaborative action necessary to reverse the tide...
Here was a man whose words and life touched his Irish comrades from pillar to post, from presidents and prime ministers, to ordinary folk, bending the arc of the meaning and usefulness and significance of poetry upward and outward into the heart beat of a culture.
Here is just a single sample of his work:

From The Frontier Of Writing by Seamus Heaney
The tightness and the nilness round that space
when the car stops in the road, the troops inspect
its make and number and, as one bends his face

towards your window, you catch sight of more
on a hill beyond, eyeing with intent
down cradled guns that hold you under cover

and everything is pure interrogation
until a rifle motions and you move
with guarded unconcerned acceleration—

a little emptier, a little spent
as always by that quiver in the self,
subjugated, yes, and obedient.

So you drive on to the frontier of writing
where it happens again. The guns on tripods;
the sergeant with his on-off mike repeating

data about you, waiting for the squawk
of clearance; the marksman training down
out of the sun upon you like a hawk.

And suddenly you're through, arraigned yet freed,
as if you'd passed from behind a waterfall
on the black current of a tarmac road

past armor-plated vehicles, out between
the posted soldiers flowing and receding
like tree shadows into the polished windscreen.

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