Seamus Heaney died in Dublin today. He was a poet whose work has been central to the development of my own poetic vision, and who enriched our world immensely through his work and his life. He was a man who loved the world with the most tender attention, finding the soul essence in the particular genius of ordinary people, events, places and things, offering us their magic in his astonishing body of work, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995.

Seamus Heaney, thank you for living so generously, for discovering the illuminated heart of “the disregarded ones” and giving them such eloquent voice. We will miss you.

Here’s a poem from his collection, Opened Ground, Faber & Faber, 1998.


It looked like a clump of small dusty nettles
growing wild at the gable of the house
beyond where we dumped our refuse and old bottles:
Unverdant ever, almost beneath notice.

But, to be fair, it also spelled promise
and newness in the back yard of our life
as if something callow yet tenacious
sauntered in green alleys and grew rife.

The snip of scissor blades, the slight of Sunday
mornings when the mint was cut and loved:
My last things will be first things slipping from me.
Yet let all things go free that have survived.

Let the smells of mint go heady and defenceless
like inmates liberated in that yard.
Like the disregarded ones we turned again
because we’d failed them by our disregard.

–Seamus Heaney