As it is National Poetry Day, I thought it was an apt time to explain my recent blogging absence.
Two months ago I started a new job in the Seamus Heaney HomePlace and on Thursday night, we officially opened the Centre in his home village of Bellaghy, in the presence of the Heaney family, the First and Deputy First Ministers of Northern Ireland and many notable friends and guests.
The Opening weekend was amazing and exhausting and a highlight of my working career so far. There were talks by Christopher Reid, Tom Paulin and Michael Longley and performances by Paul Brady, Stephen Rea and Fiona Shaw.
The Centre has a theatre, craft shop and café and at the centre is an exhibition dedicated to exploring the life of Seamus Heaney growing up in Bellaghy and the people and experiences that inspired his work. The exhibition also features recordings of Heaney reading his own work.
For National Poetry Day, The Prince of Wales has recorded a reading of Seamus Heaney’s poem The Shipping Forecast which was aired on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme as part of the nationwide celebrations. The recording will also be featured at HomePlace today and visitors can listen to the piece throughout the day.
The work that has gone in to the planning of the Opening weekend was phenomenal and I was working 12 and 14 hour shifts so blogging has had to take a bit of a back seat. After work, home and family, I had little time or energy to write blog posts – even though I have been managing to read quite a bit and have a few reviews just waiting to be written.
I’m hoping that I can get back in to the routine of blogging regularly and reading all my favourite blogs again. I miss it and I miss all my blogging pals and I didn’t realise how much this little corner of the internet means to me, until I started to abandon it!
Today, in celebration of National Poetry Day, I’m going to share a Seamue Heaney poem, Personal Helicon, which was read at the opening of HomePlace and whose last line is one of my favourite lines of poetry.
For Michael Longley
As a child, they could not keep me from wells
And old pumps with buckets and windlasses.
I loved the dark drop, the trapped sky, the smells
Of waterweed, fungus and dank moss.
One, in a brickyard, with a rotted board top.
I savoured the rich crash when a bucket
Plummeted down at the end of a rope.
So deep you saw no reflection in it.
A shallow one under a dry stone ditch
Fructified like any aquarium.
When you dragged out long roots from the soft mulch
A white face hovered over the bottom.
Others had echoes, gave back your own call
With a clean new music in it. And one
Was scaresome, for there, out of ferns and tall
Foxgloves, a rat slapped across my reflection.
Now, to pry into roots, to finger slime,
To stare, big-eyed Narcissus, into some spring
Is beneath all adult dignity. I rhyme
To see myself, to set the darkness echoing.