JEFFREY BROWN: And finally tonight, we remember the world-renowned poet and Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney. He died earlier today after a short illness in his native Ireland.
Two years ago, I sat down with him in New York, as he looked back on his life and work. Here’s an excerpt. It starts with Heaney reading a section from his poem “Album” about his parents.
SEAMUS HEANEY, poet: “Now the oil-fired heating boiler comes to life abruptly, drowsily, like the time collapse of a sawn-down tree. I imagine them in summer season, as it must have been. And the place it dawns on me could have been Grove Hill before the oaks were cut, where I would often stand with them on airy Sundays, shin-deep in hilltop bluebells, looking out at Magherafelt’s four spires in the distance. Too late, alas, now for the apt quotation about a love that’s proved by steady gazing, not at each other, but in the same direction.”
JEFFREY BROWN: Heaney grew up in a rural family farmhouse called Mossbawn in Northern Ireland. He was the first of nine children who lived a life very grounded in the soil.
His famous early poem titled “Digging” portrays his father working the earth with a spade and ends with an announcement to the world that he, the young poet, will use a different tool.
“Between my finger and my thumb, the squat pen rests. I will dig with it.”
In his Nobel address, he spoke of making a life journey into — quote — “the wideness of language.”
SEAMUS HEANEY: The first poetry a writer feels he can trust and come to a point that you think that is a poem, that is a life-changing experience.
JEFFREY BROWN: Do you remember that?
SEAMUS HEANEY: I do, yes.
It was certainly when I wrote “Digging.” You know, I felt — when you’re beginning, you’re not sure. I mean, is this a poem? Or is it just a shot at a poem? Or is it kind of a dead thing?
But when it comes alive in a way to feel that’s your own utterance, then I think you’re in business.
JEFFREY BROWN: Seamus Heaney was 74 years old.
And, online, you can find our complete profile of the poet, and you can watch him read one of his best-known works, “Death of a Naturalist.”
JUDY WOODRUFF: Remarkable talent.