Every now and again I need to get down here, to get into the Diogenes tub, as it were, or the Colmcille beehive hut, or the Mossbawn scullery. At any rate, a hedge surrounds me, the blackbird calls, the soul settles for an hour or two …
For all his public eminence, Seamus Heaney seems never to have lost the compelling need to write personal letters. In this ample but discriminating selection from fifty years of his correspondence, we are given access as never before to the life and poetic development of a literary titan – from his early days in Belfast, through his controversial decision to settle in the Republic, to the gradual broadening of horizons that culminated in the award of a Nobel Prize and the years of international acclaim that kept him heroically busy until his death.
Editor Christopher Reid draws from both public and private archives to reveal this story in the poet’s own words. Generous, funny, exuberant, confiding, irreverent, empathetic and deeply thoughtful, the letters encompass decades-long relationships with friends and colleagues, as well as showing an unstinted responsiveness to passing acquaintances. Moreover, Heaney’s joyous mastery of language is as evident here as it is in any of his writing for a literary readership.
Listening to Heaney’s voice, we find ourselves in the same room as a man whose presence, when he lived, enriched the world immeasurably, and whose legacy continues to deepen our sense of what truly matters.