“The language has a way of gesturing toward it.”

There’s a lovely 75 minute documentary video about Seamus Heaney, called Seamus Heaney: Out of the Marvellous, available here for the next two weeks.

I’d never had the occasion to hear Heaney read his own poems and this video combines moments of that with an extended conversation about his writing and personal life. It’s threaded throughout with a lovely soundtrack by Stephen McKeon.

In the course of the interviews one gains a sense of the man whom mourners called “irreplaceable” and “an exemplary human being,” and about whom they said, “there are very few human beings like that.” The Irish News published a lovely tribute  upon Bellaghy’s receiving his body for burial, and the Belfast Telegraph wrote of his legacy as well.

I can’t help but think I would have liked to have learned from the man, to just simply have known him, not least because he was someone who understood, from having experienced it himself, how to blow a heart open. The poem below is being quoted everywhere, its last lines having been read at his funeral mass. I include it here because it seems just about right.


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 lightning of a 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 and 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 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1996)


2 thoughts on ““The language has a way of gesturing toward it.”

    1. Those last lines, being quoted were the first I’d heard of this particular poem. Reading the whole thing really “buffeted my car” 🙂

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