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Thursday, 5 September 2013


Don't let me keep you
from fucking the world over,
but Seamus Heaney has died.
Just some old poet
guy with a funny accent
who wrote about stuff
in peoples hearts and minds.
Not serious things like
gassing and bombing
and killing, I know.
Some old guy
who looked between
and saw what was there
and reported back
so that we could ignore it
and buy another TV.
I think that it's
worth noting that he
bought Beowulf
back to life
and wrote of turnip snedding
in relation to life
but that's just me,
what do I know, poetically
Things I learnt from him, mainly,
though he was the man
and I am a boy.
going on a bit.
He was a good guy.
You have to get back
 to your work, eh.

©Hamish Mack
Seamus Heaney dead.


  1. I really love this one. Great work, Hamish!

  2. Thankyou Steve, I just wrote how I felt.

  3. Great poem Hamish.....love the matter of fact tone and the breathless rhythm. Well done.

  4. Thanks Maurice. I was trying for simplicity.

  5. Well actually Seamus Heaney did write about 'the serious things like gassing and bombing and kiling' - in Northern Ireland - i.e. The Troubles. Lots of his poems are homages to the victims. He wrote an entire set of 'bogland poems' that explore, in a metaphorical language, the violence in the North in. Also he wrote poems inspired by ancient Greece and Rome that explores war and killing, 'The Cure at Troy' being the most famous of these (as quoted by Bill Clinton in the Northern Ireland peace talks). Plus, Heaney's verse was not 'ignored' in Ireland, (far from it, even those not interested in poetry could quote him) where he now has earned the epitaph of 'a voice of peace.'

    1. Indeed conflict, in Syria and elsewhere, presses upon our perspectives, but the apparently mean-spirited sentiment here seems a little beneath us - maybe an Oedipal cry is intended? If I didn't know better, I'd blame the depersonalising dynamic of online engagement and/or omnipresent targetting mode of video games, for having crept in - although an innocuous point of on-topic information, imo, I posted on Tuesday isn't up anymore. The points you make, Siobhán, about metaphor etc in Seamus Heaney's poetry steer me back to read them with more awareness.

  6. You are exactly right Siobhán, he was all of that. That's the point of the poem, to point out to people who may not have heard of him what a great poet we have lost. That maybe their life composed of buying TV and listening to government spokespeople need a bit of enlightenment.
    It is deeply rooted in my own cynicism about New Zealand's public discourse. If we listened to the likes of Heaney, more and to the likes of our Prime Minister,John Key, a lot less we might get some progress in our society.

    1. It just felt to me that it was solely a personal declaration - as it seems everyone has heard of Seamus Heaney, the world over! Even if they don't know his poetry, they know his achievements as a Nobel winner and how his voice of peace and grace in a place of political turmoil was a force for good. It just seemed to come across as insensitive - especially the line 'Not serious things like gassing or bombing or killing, I know...' - as this and worse went on in his immediate environment! This line in particular doesn't come across as an ill-informed voice of the indifferent masses, but a blatant contradiction and false devaluing of what he was all about. I hope you can understand where I'm coming from. In Ireland, especially Northern Ireland, Heaney has been a light to us, and the general consensus - whether you're indifferent to poetry or not - is one of respect.

  7. The Telegraph was running a piece today sub-titled, 'Charles Moore, the authorised biographer of Baroness Thatcher, has accused Seamus Heaney of failing to 'condemn' the Provisional IRA.' Which is ironic, as it's well know the IRA blamed him, a working class Catholic, for not siding with them on occasions! It's like Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist monk nominated by M.L. King for the Nobel peace prize in 1965. His team of social-working monks would go out in boats scooping up the bodies, regardless of which side they were on, and rebuild bombed villages over and over, until he saw he needed to alert the world to what was happenning in Vietnam to get the fighting to stop. He was punished with forced exile for 35 years. He had mixed success but his message remains, peace is every breath, every step. He wrote an acclaimed book of poems, Please Call Me By My True Names.

    Heaney's poem, The Casualty, is one portraying sectarian wastage. In Stone From Delphi, the extreme care he takes to deploy detoxified words is stated. In The Harvest Bow, he proposes, 'The end of art is peace.' It's not always so but can be and if it is, let's not stop, as world leaders try to decide, (at least they're listening to each other now) what to do. May they intervene safely and successfully soon! Sláinte! Caroline

  8. I understand where you are coming from, Siobhan and envy you living in a place where a poet can be so honoured. I don't think it will happen here. The line about gassing and killing is comparing the coverage of Heaney's death (<1% of reporting time) with the saturation coverage of Syria and how NZ is so keen to help. I fully realise that Heaney was a strong and vital voice against the violence in his country and my poem tries to show that since it did not happen in the last two weeks, most people here would have forgotten about it.
    It's a statement about NZ society and how I think we have gone wrong.