(from the Irish Times, 8/30.)
Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney, who has died aged 74, was described by Robert Lowell as “the most important Irish poet since Yeats”.
Widely acclaimed for his many notable achievements, during his lifetime he undoubtedly was the most popular poet writing in English, and the only poet assured of a place in the bestseller lists. His books sold, and continue to sell, in the tens of thousands, while hordes of “Heaneyboppers” flocked to his readings.
His earliest influences, Robert Frost and Ted Hughes, are reflected throughout his work, but most especially in his first two collections, where he recollected images of his childhood on the family farm in county Derry.
Heaney did not confine himself to poetry. A respected critic, he also was a distinguished academic and his translations from Greek, Latin, Italian, Irish and Anglo-Saxon reflect the extent of his learning. As a translator he sought to remain true to the original text, and disliked the modern practice whereby a poem is “smashed and grabbed rather than rendered up”.
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