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Thank you, Seamus Heaney

 

'Seamus made friends with the person you wanted to be' - Gerry Hanberry


Last Wednesday, NUI Galway hosted a celebration of the life and work of Seamus Heaney and thanks to my dear friend, Catherine Cronin, I was lucky enough to be there. Poetry seems to have the most power when it is shared between friends and when it intersects with our lives in unexpected ways.   

Back in July 2012, when we saw Mary Robinson in Galway, she offered her friend, Seamus Heaney's words in answer to Catherine's question: 'what should we tell our children' to connect them to her work for social justice.  A few weeks before, I had tweeted a picture of some Heaney first editions from Kenny's bookshop in Galway.  This was picked up by Pam Moran who thought it would be lovely to be able to give a signed Heaney book to her friend, and mine, Ira Socol.  Ira in turn had drawn great inspiration from Heaney in his own journey as an author.  So, we hatched a plan to try and get a book signed at Heaney's reading in Sligo in August 2012.

It was a magical evening shared with my friend, Lorna and culminated in a short meeting with the great man.  We had a short conversation where I was able to tell Seamus about the inspiration he had provided for Ira.  I received twinkly smile of connection and a feeling that the great man had looked deep into me - a look I tried to convey back to Pam and Ira.  Pam was able to send Ira the treasured book and we all shared in the sweetness of the moment.  
 
When Seamus came to Sligo again a year later, we snapped up the tickets and enjoyed another lovely night in his company.  So, it was with great sadness and shock that we learned of his passing just 3 weeks later.  Many Twitter friends joined in our appreciation of Heaney and shared moving tributes:
 
Catherine Cronin - RIP Seamus Heaney
Ira Socol - The Multiage Magic
Pam O'Brien - A New Republic Tribute
Mary Ann Reilly - Large Loss: Seamus Heaney
Leigh Graves Wolf - RIP - Seamus Heaney
Hellie Bullock -  Seamus Heaney
Evelyn O'Connor - Seamus Heaney RIP
 
So, Wednesday's celebration felt like a closing of the circle and an affirmation of friendship.  It began with a wonderfully erudite introduction by Galway teacher, Gerry Hanberry, a fond remembrance by Seamus' school friend, Des Kavanagh and a musical tribute by Mairtin O'Connor, Brendan O'Regan & Jimmy Higgins.  And then came the poetry, performed by a wonderfully varied cast of performers:
 
 
 
Cian Siggins - A Kite for Aibhin
Brendan Flynn - The Given Note
Noelle Lynskey - Miracle
Marie Cadden - Sunlight
Geraldine Mills - Personal Helicon
Padraic Keane - Port na bpucai, Fainne Geal an Lae (music)
Debora Biancheri - L'Aquilone, Giovanni Pascoli
Anne O'Connor - The Kite
Meabh Browne - Tate's Avenue
Lucy Costello - Requiem for the Croppies
Kevin Higgins - Limbo
Marie Mullen - Seeing Things & Midterm Break
Mary McPartlan - Slieve Gallon Brae
Stephen Rea - Lightenings
Lorna Shaughnessy - Glanmore Sonnets I
John Behan - Derry Derry Down
Mary O'Malley - Extract Sweeney Astray
Lillis O'Laoire - An Cleamaire Deireanna
Claire Long - Poet to Blacksmith
Moya Cannon - Keeping Going
Kathleen Loughnane - The Roaring Wave, The Hag's Money
Cormac Loughnane - Lady Dillon (O'Carolan)
Rita Ann Higgins - Mint
Tom Kilroy - Reflection on his joyful friendship with Seamus which included a wonderful tale of buying an overcoat in Dubin
Nollaig MacCongail - Closing Words
 
 
Seamus may be gone, but his words are with us still.  More than that, he has given us compass points to orient ourselves; ways of being and thinking to challenge ourselves and levers to push for change.  His words remind us that we have everything we need.
 
Thank you, Seamus, Thank you, friends.

 

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