Seamus Heaney: 1939 – 2013


I was saddened to read the news on my Facebook page this morning (because that’s how we get most of our news these days, from shared stories on social media) of Seamus Heaney’s death at the age of 74. Many friends and acquaintances noted his passing by posting quotes from his poems, or by linking to video or audio of one of his readings, and very few people pulled from the same work, which is a testament to both his reach and to the large body of work he produced in his lifetime.

Heaney was a huge influence on me as a younger poet. My first exposure to him was as an undergrad in a summer class when we read Station Island, and I was taken in, not just by the thick, clotted language he was famous for, but also by the way he reached into a land and drew power out of it. I own more individual collections by Heaney than by pretty much any other author, and I keep them on the bookshelf nearest where I do most of my work, just so I can pull one down and swim in his voice when I need it. I think I’ll do that now.

Brian Spears is Senior Poetry Editor of The Rumpus and the author of A Witness in Exile (Louisiana Literature Press, 2011). His poem “Upon Reading That Andromeda Will One Day Devour Triangulum and Come For Us Next” was featured in Season 9 of Motion Poems. More from this author →