Tag Archives: Had I Not Been Awake

Seamus Heaney: Journey of The Soul: Manchester Lit Fest 2010

Whitworth Hall, Manchester 25th October 2010 6.30pm (for a full list of his poems recited at this event please see a couple of posts below this one)

For over forty years Seamus Heaney has dug deep with his pen into the psyche of Ulster, exploring cultural identities and Ireland’s troubled past. He has been awarded numerous accolades over the years and added another to his collection earlier this month when his twelfth volume of poetry, Human Chain, was awarded the Forward Prize for best collection. The prestige surrounding a poet of Heaney’s stature was echoed by that of Whitworth Hall itself, and with its neo-Gothic architecture, swooping chandeliers and wood panelling, it’s difficult to think of a venue in Manchester more befitting a former Nobel Laureate.

As he stood at his lectern wearing a sombre charcoal suit, Heaney’s white hair contrasted sharply against an imposing backdrop of grey organ pipes. A lone spotlight shone directly onto his books and it looked almost as though what he was reading from had turned into gold. In his own words, Heaney was about to take his audience on a ‘journey of the soul’ which would recount old and new poems along the way, with his father emerging as a central figure on that journey. Continue reading


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Human Chain by Seamus Heaney

Earlier this month, the former Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney was awarded the Forward prize for best collection, in recognition of his twelfth volume of poetry, Human Chain. For over forty years Heaney has dug deep with his pen into the psyche of Ulster, exploring cultural identities and Ireland’s troubled past. But his newest collection has little to recount for the recent troubles in Ireland and instead focuses on the poet’s own mortality which is brought starkly to the fore in poems such as ‘The Baler’ and ‘Chanson d’Aventure’.

Confronting one’s own mortality has caused some of the poems in Human Chain to sound markedly less upbeat than those which appeared in its predecessor, District and Circle. However, as often is the case with Heaney, there is cause for joy and celebration to be found in the darkest of subject matters.

Heaney suffered a stroke in 2006 which left him temporarily paralysed down his left-hand side and the poem ‘Chanson d’Aventure’ details the terrifying incident, along with the horror of realising that he was also paralysed. In the poem, it is the warm touch of his wife’s hands, Marie, that he misses being able to feel the most, but consolingly the couple still have the, “Everything and nothing spoken, / Our eyebeams threaded laser-fast”. Continue reading

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