A Tribute to Seamus Heaney (September-2013)

A Tribute to Seamus Heaney

We were deeply saddened on Friday to learn of the death of poet, playwright and Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney. May he rest in peace.

Here are some recollections of St. Mary's past students on studying the poetry of Seamus Heaney:

"My love for English didn't encompass poetry. I loved books and plays but found poetry tiresome. Midterm Break was different. The picture Seamus painted of his brother's funeral through the surreal perspective memories from childhood have - where everyone is bigger than you and you don't quite understand what's going on - had a huge impact on me. When news of Seamus' death came, my school friends talked about it on Whatsapp while I saw lots of other former St Mary's students mention it on Facebook. It was clear I was far from the only one who remembered what must be one of the most powerful lines from any poem: A four-foot box, a foot for every year. " Cathy

"I loved poetry in school. Mrs Quigley was so passionate about poetry and I think she had instilled the love of poetry onto her students including me. I remember studying Mid-term Break for my Junior Cert and I never forget the line - a four foot box, a foot for every year. It is visually tragic with imagery of a young, confused boy coming home to the wake of his four year old brother who got knocked down by a car. On a sad note Mrs. Quigley has passed away too and I know she would also be deeply saddened by his passing. I take comfort in the thought that they might meet up there!" Margaret

"My favourite poem of all time is Mid-term Break. That last line was so poignant and evoked strong emotions thinking of Heaney's baby brother, "A four foot box, a foot for every year". I did that poem during my junior Cert year, and for my oral exam at the Royal Academy (where I received an honour), and can still recite it by heart. I even have a couple of poems signed by him personally, which I will always treasure." Lynn

"After studying Heaney for both my Junior and Leaving Certificate, I left my school days behind & set off on a travelling adventure with four of my classmates. Heaney's poems stood out in our minds as his words were so strong and emotive. We all had personal favourites like "Mid-term Break", "Follower".

Towards the end of our travelling, we found ourselves in Aarhus, Denmark and we immediately recalled one of Heaney's poems. We found where there was a Tollund man on display and we went to view it. In the gift shop at the museum, there were postcards of the Tollund man for sale. We bought one, wrote a simple quote -

"Some day I will go to Aarhus

To see his peat-brown head,

The mild pods of his eye-lids,

His pointed skin cap."

We then signed our names and posted it to our former English teacher, Mrs Broderick at the school address.

Upon my return to St Mary's as a teacher 6 years later I got talking to Mrs Broderick about the postcard. She mentioned how touched she had been by it, especially as we were 'done' with school and poetry yet while on our trip, we took the time to send that postcard. Mrs Broderick also told me how she had been at a celebration of Heaney's and how she had mentioned the postcard and our quote to Heaney's wife while in conversation with her. This delighted myself and the other girls - the idea of the man himself, one of Ireland's greatest ever poets, possibly knowing we did something inspired by his work was thrilling."

Caroline and class of 2002

"My memory of Seamus Heaney's poem Midterm Break with Mrs B O'Sullivan:

This is such an emotional and sad poem; I will never forget that I did it for Junior Certificate exam 1996. I did this poem for Junior Certificate. It was about a 4 year old boy died and his older brother has been informed that he has to come home to a family tragedy. His neighbour collected him and brought him home for his little brother's funeral. He met his father in the hallway; his father always takes funerals in his stride. The eldest son was so embarrassed to be met by his neighbours to shake his hands and apologies for his loss. His mother held his hand while she cried and was angry that she lost her 4 year old son but she was happy to see her eldest come home for the funeral. "A four foot box, a foot for every year" means that the child is only 4 years old. It makes me cry and sad to see that sad poem". Niamh

"Seamus Heaney was an amazing poet that I will always remember and that poem will always be in my mind and memories for the rest of my life.

It was early autumn, I was 22, fresh out of Manchester Metropolitan University where I had studied Contemporary Arts ... I came home and started the job searching and had managed to get some interviews! But all of them were saying "but you're deaf, how can you use phones" etc , and at my last interview of the week it was the same story again and I went to a nearby park to sit down and have a cry as I was so upset. There was an old man sitting beside me, when I looked around I saw it was Seamus Heaney and I was instantly mortified and cried again, and he asked me why and I told him he was my favorite poet. He read me a new poem he was writing at the park, I can't remember the words as I was a bit frazzled and starstruck ! and when he finished reading the poem he then asked me why was I crying in the first place I was frustrated at the interviewer asking me questions like would I be able to use phones , talk to people and I snapped and said we are talking just fine and walked out and felt that I made a mistake in doing that at an interview. Seamus Heaney talked about how the job wasn't the right job for me and to stick to my guns and one day a job will come by ! 2-3 weeks later I accepted a job at the Irish Deaf Society and it was the right job."

Anna Louise