Seamus Heaney was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature
The Door Was Open and the House Was Dark
(in memory of David Hammond)
The door was open and the house was dark
Wherefore I called his name, although I knew
The answer this time would be silence
That kept me standing listening while it grew
Backwards and down and out into the street
Where as I'd entered (I remember now)
The streetlamps too were out.
I felt, for the first time there and then, a stranger,
Intruder almost, wanting to take flight
Yet well aware that here there was no danger,
Only withdrawal, a not unwelcoming
Emptiness, as in a midnight hangar
On an overgrown airfield in late summer.
1939 – 2013
In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Seamus Heaney described 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 solitudes and distresses are creditable.”
I once went to a reading of Seamus Heaney's which was a complete disaster from an organisational point of view. Despite being a ticketed event, the organisers seemed surprised by the number of people who had turned up. They seemed equally surprised that a crowded room in midsummer would generate heat. The giant fans which were turned on were noisy affairs drowning out the poet's voice, a neat precursor to a fault in the sound system. Heaney was offered a hand held microphone which was fine until he wanted to turn the page of the book he was holding in the other hand. Enough for some poets I know to throw something of a hissy fit but not our man. Not only did he genially contend with all of these mishaps but he somehow, rode all the problems and carried on to give a reading which was good-humoured, thought provoking and inspirational. In fact the reading is remembered for those qualities rather than the nonsense which preceded it. And it is a memory which is particularly poignant now after his death in September.
A good man and a great poet gone.