A quest for truth is always core to the purpose of a poet. Remembering Seamus Heaney
The poet Seamus Heaney was a master craftsman of the English language. He embodied the other important characteristics of craftsmanship: a granite-like integrity and a deep empathy for the world around him. A quest for truth is always core to the purpose of a poet, to seek that which others do not see and to express it in a way that we can all understand. We o!en ignore the importance of language: its ability to uplift us, or to shape the way we see and therefore act in the world. Heaney wrote:
‘What always will be to poetry’s credit, is the power to persuade that vulnerable part of our consciousness of its rightness in spite of the evidence of wrongness around it.’
As a poet Heaney wrote about life – his life experiences, and a very difficult present – compassionately. He would bring us into his world via the everyday; it could be the smallest detail of life, then he would expand into its broader context, always finding a truth at a universal level we could all resonate with. Whether that was describing how he folded freshly laundered aired sheets with his mother, or exploring the human consequences of Northern Ireland’s Troubles, it was all about ‘the mass and majesty of the world’.
Heaney demonstrated that people can be graceful under any circumstances, wherever they stand or go. Heaney was more than a poet: he was a man applying his craft to truth.
It is in truth that we find beautiful things, and it is in truth that we can operate authentically. One might have the head of an engineer, but one must always quest with the heart of a poet.