Friday, August 30, 2013

Seamus Heaney

But also a recognition that nothing can be learned, that to be in the presence of a death is to be in the presence of something utterly simple and utterly mysterious. In my case, the experience restored the right to use words like soul and spirit, words I had become unduly shy of, a literary shyness, I suppose, deriving from a misplaced obedience to proscriptions of the abstract, but also a shyness derived from a complicated relationship with my own Catholic past. In many ways I love it and have never quite left it, and in other ways I suspect it for having given me such ready access to a compensatory supernatural vocabulary. But experiencing my parents' deaths restored some of the verity to that vocabulary. These words, I realized, aren't obfuscation. They have to do with the spirit of life that is within us.
The above is a quote from a 1997 interview with Seamus Heaney, the Irish poet and Nobel Laureate who died today. Heaney is speaking of the death of his parents. While I won't claim to be an expert on his work, the warmth and humanism on display here and in his poems does resonate. Full obituary here.

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