National Poetry Day – ‘set the darkness echoing’

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.


Irish Literature

Cathy746books View All →

I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!

33 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I love the poem. We used to have an abandoned well right in our backyard, and it was one of favourite places to play. It still had a crank that worked, so we would connect lots of the things to put down the well and bring back up. I often wonder what still might be down there. 🙂
    The place you work looks wonderful, and I’m glad that your long hours are happy and fulfilling ones!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, what a wonderful venture to be involved in, Cathy! I saw Seamus Heaney perform at Dublin Swell in 2011; something I will long remember, probably because, for the first time, hearing someone read poetry made me “get” it (Paul Lurcan did a very memorable reading that night too)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Delighted that you have this new job and one which you are so aptly suited. Sadly, though I had tickets for the Sat & Sun events, family matters precluded me from going. I’ve always enjoyed your blog and through it, I’ve discovered other similar blogs for which I thank you. I’ve been introduced to many exciting authors, not least Jean Hanff Korelitz. I astounded that somehow I had missed her novels. So far, I’ve read three and been blown away by her style, writing and themes. It was only at the end of the first novel, that I discovered she is married to our own Paul Muldoon! Your job is going to bring you into contact with all sorts of people which makes it a very exciting place to be. Good luck. No better person to be in the Homeland.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well done on the event. Having been involved in many launches i can sympathise with you – there really is no time to think of anything but the upcoming event. Have you experienced the slump as the adrenalin evaporates or are you still on a high???

    Liked by 1 person

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