Sunday, April 25, 2010

Seamus Heaney at Indiana University

Seamus Heaney visited Indiana University on April 15th, with conversation and poetry. "Famous Seamus!" It was a wonderful occasion – a packed hall in the Fine Arts Auditorium, a hushed awe, excited buzz. His tender wry voice, enduring words, verbs and verbiness ("all verb"), stocky nouns, the arch of a life story in which themes are elaborated and refined, dug up, returned to the ground of poetry over time. He talked about that.

The rhyme in time: the same words repeated, loaded, downloaded, delivered to new ears. The familiar cadence of his voice. His wit, humility. The aging process doing its work on an enduring specimen. White hair now. A right hardy specimen of a man.

Sweetness. He gave me a little wave as he got in the black car and was driven off after the reading. I've seen him a few other times in my lucky life, in Ireland and Minnesota, though that's all quite a long time ago now. And the next time? I hope there is one, somehow.

Heaney began, as he often does, with the poem he says was his first, "Digging." This video catches him reciting that poem in various moments over the years. (Thanks to Jenny for passing it along. Image courtesy of Indiana University.)