Friday, 27 September 2013

Yay, 50,000 Views!

Yay, I have reached 50,000 views here today! 

Quelle surprise! Starting out, I never thought this day would come (at 3 or 4 hits a day - now it's circa 150!) 50,000 big ones. It's a hell of a lot. And I would like to say thank you to all my followers, readers, and random passers-by. Thank you for stopping by and having a read! You are the stadium crowd behind the tally number, cheering me on.

Flaubert once said that to be a real writer you shouldn't care about who reads your work. You write for yourself first and foremost, you write for the love of writing. Which I do. But having an audience is something I am grateful for. And feedback, especially so. 

Just to write something and put it out here, knowing it exists in a tangible shape, words gathering into a constellation of a kind, is a very powerful thing. It's so great to know that there are those of you out there who have been moved in some way by what I've written to go to the bother of leaving a comment. I am especially thankful for that. Seeing since in real life, it's not so easy to get people to comment on writing! But here, is a haven. Here is a home.

Thank you for reading. Here's to the big, the biggest, 100,000 views. Onwards!

~ Siobhán


Saturday, 21 September 2013

New Single Gal in Town

Well I'd like to share with you all my new blog: A Single Gal Talks Back!

Influenced by Carrie's columns from Sex and the City, it tackles the theme of the singleton stereotype slapped on people who are currently-without-partner. Or as I like to call it 'too fabulous to settle just yet.' 

Here's the promo:
*Confessions & Digressions of a Disillusioned Single Gal:  Sick of the pity tag stereotype that goes with being 'single' & the pressure to conform to coupling. Also exploring the many hoop-las of dating. (From a romantic & rebellious & feminist viewpoint. Warning: May contain riotous and/or offensive rants.)*
Important to say - this is not the self-indulgent rantings of a bitter singleton, but rather the realistic presentation of facts as I see them, the observations of human behaviour as interpreted by a sensitive romantic and feisty individual such as myself!

It's a space of speaking out and talking back against the labelling and judging that goes with being single. I am just sick and tired of it! I thought of doing some posts here, but there's just  too much to say! It needs a space all of its own! I also look at relationships in the modern day and how I see them. With a pinch of wit and humour (and maybe offense - but what's anything without controversy?) But mainly, I set out to debunk the myth that love-life status should act as the sole defining force of a life. On the contrary. 

So if you're single, or even not, male or female, disillusioned, romantic, realist or cynic, drop on over and have a look and a say if you so feel! I'd love to hear from you and have a bit of solid support in this ever-demanding solo stance I embark on by choice, not lack of choices. 
~To speaking out!

Join me!

~ Siobhán

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Harvest Moon Medley


Tonight of course, is the Harvest Moon. For anyone who hasn't heard of it, it's simply the name given to the moon nearest to the autumnal equinox (Sept 21) and like other the moons, takes its name from the activities of the natural world at this time, which would be the harvest. 

The harvest moon is the biggest of all the moons. This is due to the moon rising early and on the horizon at this time of year. It appears orange as we look at it through the earth's atmosphere, a gilded gold.  (for the science, you can read here

I'll never forget the first time I saw a harvest moon - absolutely huge! The size of Jupiter I'd reckon if it happened to float by us. Massive. Compared to other moons. And low down on the horizon, pure gold in colour. It was a stunning sight. 

A bit like this reaction:
"I was walking with a friend one hot August... As we rounded a corner we were both halted mid-stride by what lay before us. Looking out across the ocean we saw what appeared to be the lights of a great ship approaching, glowing orange across the water... As we watched, we realized our eyes had been playing tricks on us. What we were seeing was the rim of the harvest moon emerging from the sea, a monstrous, swollen apparition, its shape distorted by the atmospheric conditions; glowing and pulsing like an ember, craters and canyons were clearly visible on its surface like purple veins. 

We stood for a few minutes before hurrying back along the path to the house where we were staying and calling our friends outside to toast the moon as it wobbled up into the sky. Later that night I was woken by the mournful bellow of a foghorn. Going to the window I saw that the moon had changed colour from tangerine to silver and was casting a blade of light over the perfectly still sea, across which a solid wall of fog was advancing towards the shore. On this night at least, in this distant corner of our crowded, congested archipelago, the moon still reigned supreme." - from 'Nocturne: A Journey in Search of Moonlight' ~ by James Attlee

Or this poem from Carl Sandburg, that describes the magic of it, the mystery it seems to embody,


Under the Harvest Moon - Carl Sandburg

Under the harvest moon,
When the soft silver
Drips shimmering
Over the garden nights,
Death, the gray mocker,
Comes and whispers to you
As a beautiful friend
Who remembers.

Under the summer roses
When the flagrant crimson
Lurks in the dusk
Of the wild red leaves,
Love, with little hands,
Comes and touches you
With a thousand memories,
And asks you
Beautiful, unanswerable questions. 

Then there's Ted Hughes descriptive take on it that neatly sums it up, 'the flame-red moon,' 'like a gold doubloon' on the horizon, 'booming softly through heaven like a bassoon':

The Harvest Moon - Ted Hughes

The flame-red moon, the harvest moon,
Rolls along the hills, gently bouncing,
A vast balloon,
Till it takes off, and sinks upward
To lie on the bottom of the sky, like a gold doubloon.
The harvest moon has come,
Booming softly through heaven, like a bassoon.
And the earth replies all night, like a deep drum.

So people can't sleep,
So they go out where elms and oak trees keep
A kneeling vigil, in a religious hush.
The harvest moon has come!

And all the moonlit cows and all the sheep
Stare up at her petrified, while she swells
Filling heaven, as if red hot, and sailing
Closer and closer like the end of the world.

Till the gold fields of stiff wheat
Cry `We are ripe, reap us!' and the rivers
Sweat from the melting hills. 

Then, there's this lovely meditation on just what it is the moon can mean:


Moon in Virgo - James Lee Jobe

You are not beaten. The simple music rises up,  
children's voices in the air, sound floating out
across the land and on to the river beyond,
over the valley's floor. No, you cannot go back
for those things you lost, the parts of yourself
that were taken, often by force. Like an animal
in the forest you must weep it all away at once,
violently, and then simply live on. The music here
is Bach, Vivaldi; a chorale of children, a piano,
a violin. Together, they have a certain spirit
that is light, that lets in light, joyful, ecstatic.
"Forgive," said The Christ, and why not? Every day
that you still breathe has all the joy and murderous possibilities of your bravest dream.
Forgive. Breathe. Live. The moon has entered Virgo,
the wind shifts, blows up from the Delta, cools this valley,
and you are not beaten; the children sing, it is Bach,
and you are brave, alive, and human. 

And what it means in cosmic terms? Well, astrologer Jonathan Cainer outlines it clearly today: 

...We often feel a need, at Full Moon, to let out more of our true selves, to reject boundaries and barriers that normally keep us in check and to feel more aware of hidden magic. All Full Moons are powerful but when a Full Moon falls quite so close to the equinox, there's a strong celestial suggestion of 'recalibration'. Individually and collectively, we're growing aware of imbalances that may need rectifying and complications that could be simplified with surprising ease. ( 

In other words - change, renewal, a reaping of what is done in our lives and a moving on to sow for future seasons, a simultaneous saying goodbye to the old ('No, you cannot go back/for those things you lost...') and welcoming the new. What's that feeling called I wonder? I'm sure it's something like this -  'Love, with little hands, /Comes and touches you /With a thousand memories, /And asks you /Beautiful, unanswerable questions.' 

But there's nothing that can sum up the feeling the Harvest Moon engenders than this famous song of the same title by Neil Young:

'Because I'm still in love with you I want to see you dance again 
on this Harvest Moon...'

There, I hope I've given you a glimpse into what the Harvest Moon means. To me personally, it will always be that evening in September, on the cusp of change, the yellow fields beneath, the blue sky above, and the huge  harvest moon, poised like a tossed golden coin on the horizon, a harbinger of all good things to come.


I hope, wherever you are, you get the chance to see this year's Harvest Moon and if not, at least feel it. 

Moon watching, 


It is the Harvest Moon! On gilded vanes
  And roofs of villages, on woodland crests
  And their aerial neighborhoods of nests
  Deserted, on the curtained window-panes
Of rooms where children sleep, on country lanes
  And harvest-fields, its mystic splendor rests!
  Gone are the birds that were our summer guests,
  With the last sheaves return the laboring wains!
All things are symbols: the external shows
  Of Nature have their image in the mind,
  As flowers and fruits and falling of the leaves;
The song-birds leave us at the summer's close,
  Only the empty nests are left behind,
  And pipings of the quail among the sheaves.
- See more at:

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Sunday Morning Musing: The Power of Words

Oh how true is this?! 

Words are addictive and pleasure-giving, stimulating, hallucinogenic, sedative, enlivening. They can heal or hurt, clarify or confuse, offer escapism, or offer truth. But most of all, we seek out words like nothing else to obtain a 'hit' of what we crave most in this life - meaning. 

~ Siobhán

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The Seasonal Turn: A Meditation on Change & Loss

 'You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light.'
 ~ Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

'And you would accept the seasons of your heart just as you have always accepted that seasons pass over your fields and you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.' ~ Kahlil Gibran

It's September. The end of summer, the start of autumn. The month when nights start to overtake days. Back to school month, back to work, back to basics. The 'scythe' of the harvest coming to cut us down or sweep us onwards.

And I'm having a hard time adapting, a very hard time. Like a lot of people I suffer from SAD - Seasonal Affectional Disorder (self-diagnosed but not self-inflicted) and dread this time of year. It's like I 'rage, rage at the dying of the light', but to no avail. The darkness keeps on seeping in, evening after evening, and with it, the fading of all summer memories, those shiny evenings and days full of possibility. Now all that seems null and void somehow, a vague far-off memory. And I'm left miserable and moping, trying, but failing, to find my feet in a new season, a new interior and exterior landscape. 

Everyone identifies with a season. My favourite is spring - the season of beginnings, when the earth is starting to awaken after a long winter's sleep and everywhere hope gleams in the brightening of the sky, the lengthening of days, the greening of our surrounds. If I could describe it in a few words it would be: hope, possibility, enthusiasm. And you're supposed to embody the attributes of the season you were born in. Autumn is the complete opposite to spring and so I find it incredibly difficult to set my inner bearings to. It is the opposite of everything I love inherently. 'Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness....' I think Keats forgot to mention 'melancholy' in there when he penned his famous 'Ode to Autumn.'

I know there are so many people who love Autumn, seeing it as the crowning jewel of the four seasons with all its colours and poetic licence. Next month, when we're almost knee-deep in leaves, I'll have adjusted just enough to learn to like the season, because of course I appreciate that every season has its merits, and as an artist, you can't but be open to them. But it still stings my soul a little, all the while.

The seasons of course have their reflections in life. The cyclical process of change and the different emotional landscapes we must go through are signalled by the earth's seasons. 

And it's especially this year that I feel so keenly the stripping of the trees and the approach of the dark. I feel it because I have just lost someone -  a light, a love, a muse, a possibility. And with that, the season creeps in as a spectre I suppose. 

'Pathetic fallacy' - that technique in writing in which the weather mirrors the emotions of the characters - feels so true to form right now. The past month it's done nothing but rain. And the sky has greyed over with big steel clouds, suffocating, heavy, pressing down like a gag.  And if that wasn't bad enough, now comes the turn in the season: the odd yellowing leaf in foliage, the chill in the air, the dark days, the long-lasting nights - the pre-cursors to the barreness and bleakness that is to come. Change, change, 'a terrible beauty' being born. Everything seems to underscore the emptiness and sadness I feel. In another season, maybe I could triumph over this personal loss, but in this one, I feel like I'm sinking into its sorrow.

There's no more euphoric sight in nature to me than trees in full bloom, thick and green. They represent new beginnings, possibilities and hope, in thick leafy abundance. When I see them lose these leaves in winter, I can't help but despair a little - that pathetic fallacy again, but vice-versa. Exactly as Hemingway said, it was like 'part of you died.' And now I feel it all the worse, because this time, it's the same with my personal situation. I know the change has to happen, I know emptiness will only lead the way to new growth, is actually necessary for it, but still, it doesn't lessen the pain of it. 

'In this world of change, nothing which comes stays, and nothing which goes is lost.' I know everything is a part of the cyclical process, but is it ok sometimes, to step back and mourn some losses? I know people come and go from our lives, I know no one is permanent. But still, it's hard when you have to say goodbye to someone who has made such an infallible difference in your life. It's hard to let go. With all those memories of spring and summer, all those possibilities, lighting the mind, it's hard now to suddenly to let go and embrace the darkness of the oncoming unstoppable autumn/winter.

But resistance is futile. And letting go necessary. It is an act of love too. Letting people go to get on with their lives, to take paths more suitable to them, and in the long run, better. I know that. 

Well, now I must say goodbye to not just a person, but a possibility. The grand gleam of a life gilded gold with his touch. Myth or not, his presence was a light in my life. A light that dispelled many darknesses. A golden thread to follow. An inspiration. A muse of the highest calibre, the sweetest disposition. Always, there was the golden possibility of finding treasure within ordinary days because he was there - underlying them, as a presence, an influence, an inspiration, a beacon, a motif of magic. Always, there was the possibility of so much more. Potential, like bottled gold light. Summer no matter what the season. Nothing could be brighter.

Now - to do without that. 

The only thing I can compare it to is going rapidly from summer to winter. Loving the sun, and then learning to live without it. Like the displacement of SAD, or a kind of jetlag of the heart, a leaking and losing of light like blood. Now, I must learn to stand tall with bare branches and brace against the wind. With possibility gone, the bleakness of the season looms large. I wonder do the trees ever dread the winter, ever fear it?

So now as this person moves on into a different season of his life, I must too. Confront the season ahead - hunker down, wrap up, find new ways of lighting the dark - and stop dwelling in what might have been, in summer memories full of butterflies and sunlit amber evenings, nectar and giddy shine. Because summer doesn't last. No matter how much we wish it did. Life moves on. The great world spins on. And with it, I must too. As Tennyson put it,' forward, forward let us range, let the great world spin forever down the ringing grooves of change.'

I don't know if this post has any place here, but maybe it'll resonate with someone. I just needed to write it. To shed this deadening feeling that's been on me, like a deadbolt of chains, a stiffening of stone, since September has started. And to write something without acknowledging it, would seem a lie somehow.

As I sign off, I'll say I know there's gold in autumn too. The light, the leaves, the harvests that can be reaped. And that's where I'm trying to set my sights on now. And not endure the fate of Lot's wife, who turned to stone for looking back. 

In the epigram to this post, I've quoted Hemingway. Though not the full quote. After those lines, he adds: 'But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen.' Yes, I know it. Now just to believe in it.  And to find that 'serenity' to watch through 'the winter of my grief' as Kahlil Gibran says so beautifully. That would be nice.

~ Siobhán 


A poem to illustrate these thoughts:

Unloving – Carol Ann Duffy

Learn from the winter trees, the way
they kiss and throw away their leaves,
then hold their stricken faces in their hands
and turn to ice;

                         or from the clocks,
looking away, unloving light, the short days
running out of things to say; a church
a ghost ship on a sea of dusk.

Learn from a stone, its heart-shape meaningless,
perfect with relentless cold; or from the bigger moon,
implacably dissolving in the sky, or from the stars,
lifeless as Latin verbs.

                                   Learn from the river,
flowing always somewhere else, even its name,
change, change; learn from a rope
hung from a branch like a noose, a crow cursing,

a dead heron mourned by a congregation of flies.
Learn from the dumbstruck garden, summer’s grave,
where nothing grows, not a Beast’s rose;
from the torn veil of a web;

                                              from our daily bread:
perpetual rain, nothing like tears, unloving clouds;
language unloving love; even this stale air
unloving  all the spaces where you were.

*And a  song to sing them ~ 


Sunday, 1 September 2013

Seamus Heaney: Our Beloved File


'Earth receive an honoured guest...'
Ireland is in mourning. 

Our beloved national poet, our Nobel Laureate, our cherished file Seamus Heaney has died.  

But it's not just our country. No. The whole world knew and loved Seamus Heaney. Whether as a poet, a spokesman for Ireland, or just as an amiable public figure, a man of grace. Yesterday his picture graced the front page of the New York Times and countless other publications throughout the world.  Our own national newspapers have carried tribute upon tribute to this most unique man this weekend. From fellow writers and poets, but also - musicians, actors, politicians, heads of state, heads of church, heads of charities, hospitals, foreign presidents, schoolchildren and old people. Everyone, everywhere, loved him.

For Seamus Heaney was that most rarest of beings: a world-renowned Nobel prize winning poet, a man of letters, with countless awards and honours bestowed on him, but also a warm-hearted man, friendly, witty, down-to-earth (last time I checked all poets didn't pass this muster, the opposite infact). He was a poet's poet but also a poet of the people. His name is known in every Irish household, not just for his poetry, but for who he was, what he contributed to our national identity and spirit and how he did it. 

He not only showed us who we were in his verse, but who we could be. He celebrated us as a nation - our nature, our landscapes, our ordinary lives, our work, our fortitude, our friendliness, our humility, our spirit, our potential, our place in the world. He was a voice of goodness during the dark years of the Troubles, our voice of grace betwixt and between them, our voice on the international stage, our voice of dignity and gravitas.

One commentator noted that everyone in the country must have a Seamus story - from describing a meeting with him or just the influence of a poem of his. We all feel like we knew him, he was that kind of person. Contemporaries have all commented how approachable and helpful a figure he was - always encouraging new writers and never refusing a request for help from a fledgling writer or poet or keen observer or journalist or budding arts facilitator. Heaney was accommodating to everyone who came to his door (often literally), even students. (You have to chuckle at the 'homely' qualities attributed to him, one journalist talked of going to his house for an interview and being told that they would sit down and have a cup of tea and sandwiches first.) 

Ever so down-to-earth was this Nobel winner. The humble farmer's son never lost who he was or where he came from, no matter the amount of accolades or fame granted him.

He was a popular poet, a 'superstar' of a poet. He was by far the best-selling poet in the English language in the world. He brought poetry out of its roost on the higher realms of literature and into households all across the country. Another journalist wrote about going to a reading of his years ago in a school hall in the wilds of rural Ireland, being alerted to the location by a sign stuck in a tree labelled 'Seamus Heaney' with an arrow pointing to the school. People you wouldn't expect to know or like  poetry could be found at a Seamus Henaey reading - why? Because he was the voice of the country, the ambassador of our national spirit, in this case to upturn Shelley's words -  the acknowledged legislator of our world.

I admire Seamus Heaney as much as the next burgeoning writer. He was as good as it got - the master craftsman, the wondrous wordsmith, the ultimate figure to aspire to. My first experience of him -  as with almost everyone -  was studying his now infamous poem about the death of his young brother 'Mid-Term Break', in secondary school. It was a poem that appealed to many - with its raw tender account of Heaney's experience of being called home to the wake of his young brother, something that every Irish person can relate to, '...and big Jim Evans saying it was a hard blow...and I was embarrassed/by old men standing up to shake my hand/and tell me they were 'sorry for my trouble'.' There is something so simple yet poignant in its telling, that when you come to the last line, the revealing of who died -  'a four foot box, a foot for every year' - you are touched most deeply. 

In my experience of teaching and tutoring - where poetry is always the most moaned-at component of English by grumbling indifferent teenagers - it was  Seamus Heaney who struck through the indifference. Because he was 'one of our own', students felt they could relate more to him. But it wasn't just that; heck if it was, every kid would love Yeats et al too!  More so because his poems were honest and real and spoke of ordinary things.  Because every student was aware of his celebrity-like status in the country and the awe and respect for him shown in every quarter, whether you were a poetry lover or not. Where there persisted a bland nonchalance to other poetry, Seamus Heaney's poetry was met with respect and automatically taken on board.  

I've much experience of marking student essays on poets and even though some achieve an A grade, you know as a teacher, and as a poetry lover, that most are learned off and very few genuine in their rendering of the effect the poetry had on them. But when Heaney was on the paper, it was one of the rare cases when you did see genuine admiration shine through. Not because he was Irish (lots of Irish poets on the syllabus - including current ones), but because I think, he was such an admirable person in Irish society and touched everyone through his person. He was our 'file' (the Irish for poet) in the oldest truest sense, the member of society who spoke for it, a wise and humble elder who we looked to for guidance, the keeper of the national spirit, dabbling in magic, and held in the highest regard by all its citizens. 

I was so lucky to attend a poetry reading of his just a few years ago. It was a free reading held in the National Gallery in Dublin and I remember being told by the receptionist to 'come early' because it would be 'packed.' Not usually two sentiments you associate with a poetry reading, ahem. Now, I've been to quite a few poetry readings and I can tell you this: they are always serious (sometimes stuffy) affairs. There's a literary snobbishness to poetry events that aficionados don't want to admit, but it is there. And then there's this stereotype that only older people like poetry and attend such events. Well, the Seamus Heaney reading blew these clichés out of the water. The crowd was an ordinary crowd and mostly, young people. Children. Teenagers. Twenty-somethings. As well as middle-aged couples. Grannies and Grandas.  OAPs. Equal gender ratio. All ages.

There was no pomp about the experience - Seamus Heaney shuffled onto the stage with a few tattered copies of his books, all dog-eared, with neon post-its sticking out and reading-glasses in hand. He bade hello to the audience and introduced himself with a half-humorous half-witty preamble he is famous for. He read his poems not as precious entities, but as soft stories, notes from a life lived and loved, as lessons and gifts he was lucky to have had bestowed on him. And in between every one he told a story about it, somehow settling the great mystique of the task of writing poetry into a more everyday occurence. 

But it didn't diminish the effect of the poems: when he read them, everyone listened. Actively. And were captured in the strange alchemy of the moment, a moment suspended from time, a lunchtime where we were all lifted, transported, from the practical routines of existing to the soul-stuff of living, the mattering. Every word was an incantation and testament to the power of the extraordinary in the ordinary. Everyone left the room changed. For a while afterwards, I felt like I was more aware of everything, more attentive to the world. That's what poetry does granted, but it takes a great poet to communicate it to everyone, so effectively and simply, and immediately.

Seamus Heaney brought poetry to the masses. Those who would normally tut and dismiss poetry would stand to attention for Heaney's verses. Through Heaney, they came to know a bit about the power of poetry, the power it has to define a people and instil in those people a sense of belonging, a sense of self, a sense of soul. 

In his Nobel acceptance speech, he spoke of crediting poetry for its "truth to life". He talked of the power of poetry as "the power to persuade that vulnerable part of our consciousness of its rightness in spite of the evidence of wrongness all around it, the power to remind us that we are hunters and gatherers of values, that our very solitides and distresses are creditable, in so far as they, too, are an earnest of our veritable human being." He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995 for 'works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth which exalt everyday miracles and the living past.'

The poems themselves are exquisite creations: perfect in their verbal precision and heart-thumping in subtle meaning. And in Heaney's own words what a poem should be - 'compellingly wise'. I love reading them, but even better is listening to them read aloud for Heaney is highly-skilled at sound-effect (read aloud The Rain-Stick below). It's like the words dissolve on your tongue and from there are absorbed as a tonic into the body, a reinvigorating simultaneous fizzing of language and life. They click and clack together to make something solid and whole, as like the blacksmith's movements in The Forge, producing in the process 'the unpredictable fantail of sparks.' Heaney, in his Nobel acceptance speech, stated that good poems should be surprising and 'retune' the world: "like the impatient thump which unexpectedly restores the picture to the television set, or the electric shock which sets the fibrillating heart back to its proper rhythm." And that's what his poems do - restore and retune you, not just back to yourself, but to a better self.

The range of his poetry is wide: there are poems that vary from nature lyrics revelling in the beauty of the earth, especially his rural homeland of Co. Derry, to poems lit by reverent memory, poems dedicated to family members and friends, elegies to innocent people murdered in the Troubles, love poems to his wife Marie, poems influenced by classical literature, his extraordinary set of Bog people poems which explore the violence and killing in Northern Ireland in a metaphorical and symbolic language, poems that speak of the spirit's experience on earth, poems that are pure music to the ears, poems that have become forged by our political struggle and provide understanding and hope, like this excerpt from 'The Cure at Troy' immortalised by Bill Clinton in the Northern Ireland peace talks: 

'History says, Don't hope
On this side of the grave,
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.'  

So many poems, so many people touched by them. He was most able - as a line goes in 'Postscript' - to 'catch the heart off guard and blow it open.' 

And now our hearts are hurting at the loss of our graceful and grand spokesperson. 

So many beautiful  tributes have been spoken over the last few days, from all over the world, and it's a measure of the man he was to see these kind glowing words in homage to him:

-Fellow Northern Irish poet Michael Longley consoles us with the thought that: "Just as his presence filled a room, his marvellous poems filled the hearts of generations of readers." -New upcoming Irish writer Belinda McKeon wrote a heartfelt piece about him expressing what we all are feeling:  "He was loved. Beloved. Whether he was met with as a name on a page, or as a voice from a podium, or as a cherished friend or fellow artist, Seamus Heaney moved into the lives of those who encountered him—those countless lives—and he made a difference that will matter forevermore." 
-Bill Clinton remarked that: "Both his stunning work and his life were a gift to the world. His mind, heart, and his uniquely Irish gift for language made him our finest poet of the rhythms of ordinary lives and a powerful voice for peace.
-Irish Times journalist Fintan O'Toole commented that although we have lost a great man, we can never lose our great poet, who he describes as "an alchemist" - "He turned our disgrace into grace, our petty hatreds into epic generosity, our dull clichés into questioning eloquence, the leaden metal of brutal inevitability into the gold of pure possibility." Yes, his poetry will always be with us, those 'diamond absolutes' guiding the way.
-But I think Northern Irish actor Liam Neeson sums it up most perfectly when he said:  "With Seamus Heaney’s passing, Ireland, and Northern Ireland especially, has lost a part of its artistic soul. He crafted, through his poetry, who we are as a species and the living soil that we toiled in. By doing so, he defined our place in the universe. May he rest in peace." 

That's it exactly, we have lost a part of our artistic soul. The world of literature is in mourning. The country is in mourning. Many of us feel a personal loss and are in mourning. Not to mention Seamus' family who were so dear to him. There's a 'sunlit absence' now where Seamus Heaney would've been. 
Tomorrow he will be buried in his native Derry and the man who was a living embodiment of poetry, a  reverent man who inspired reverence worldwide, will be laid to rest, "a seeker of what is deepest in our common humanity" - the Archbishop of Dublin commented this evening.  Rest in peace file na hÉireann. We your people, and the world, salute you for your service to humanity. 

~ Siobhán

Photo: Love this portrait.

*I am posting Seamus Heaney poems all week on my blog Poem A Day, beginning today. 
 But for now, here are a few selections of my favourites. Feel free to share yours.

'Had I Not Been Awake'

Had I not been awake I would have missed it,
A wind that rose and whirled until the roof
Pattered with quick leaves off the sycamore

And got me up, the whole of me a-patter,  
Alive and ticking like an electric fence:  
Had I not been awake, I would have missed it,

It came and went so unexpectedly  
And almost it seemed dangerously,  
Returning like an animal to the house,

A courier blast that there and then  
Lapsed ordinary. But not ever  
After. And not now.

from Human Chain (2010)

The Rain-Stick

Up-end the stick and what happens next
Is a music that you never would have known
To listen for. In a cactus stalk

Downpour, sluice-rush, spillage and backwash
Come flowing through. You stand there like a pipe
Being played by water, you shake it again lightly

And diminuendo runs through all its scales
Like a gutter stopping trickling. And now here comes
A sprinkle of drops out of the freshened leaves,

Then subtle little wets off grass and daisies;
The glitter-drizzle, almost-breaths of air.
Up-end the stick again. What happens next

Is undiminished for having happened once,
Twice, ten, and thousand times before.
Who cares if all the music that transpires

Is the fall of grit or dry seeds through a cactus?
You are like a rich man entering heaven
Through the ear of a raindrop. Listen now again. 

from The Spirit Level (1996)


And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightening of flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully-grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you'll park or capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

from The Spirit Level (1996) 


It is December in Wicklow:
Alders dripping, birches
Inheriting the last light,
The ash tree cold to look at.

A comet that was lost
Should be visible at sunset,
Those million tons of light
Like a glimmer of haws and rose-hips,

And I sometimes see a falling star.
If I could come on meteorite!
Instead I walk through damp leaves,
Husks, the spent flukes of autumn,

Imagining a hero
On some muddy compound,
His gift like a slingstone
Whirled for the desperate.

How did I end up like this?
I often think of my friends'
Beautiful prismatic counselling
And the anvil brains of some who hate me

As I sit weighing and weighing
My responsible tristia.
For what? For the ear? For the people?
For what is said behind-backs?

Rain comes down through the alders,
Its low conductive voices
Mutter about let-downs and erosions
And yet each drop recalls

The diamond absolutes.
I am neither internee nor informer;
An inner émigre, grown long-haired
And thoughtful; a wood-kerne

Escaped from the massacre,
Taking protective colouring
From bole and bark, feeling
Every wind that blows;

Who, blowing up these sparks
For their meagre heat, have missed
The once-in-a-lifetime portent,
The comet's pulsing rose. 

from North (1975) 


Between my finger and my thumb   
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound   
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:   
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds   
Bends low, comes up twenty years away   
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills   
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft   
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.   
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

from Death of a Naturalist (1966)