Today is National Poetry Day and as always on days like this, I look to the work of Seamus Heaney for inspiration.
This year feels quite poignant as last week, Seamus Heaney’s brother Hugh Heaney passed away after a short illness. I knew Hugh well through his support for Seamus Heaney HomePlace and his enthusiasm for the work I do there and all of us who work at the Centre have felt his death very keenly.
Hugh lived and worked at the family farm – The Wood – outside Bellaghy, the place where Seamus wrote much of his first collection Death of a Naturalist. He used to joke that he thought up as many poems as Seamus did, only he never had a paper and pen handy to write them down, which was typical of Hugh’s wicked humour. He was forthright, sharp and very funny, always telling me that the shows I had programmed were good, but could probably have done with more poems.
More poems – sure you can’t argue with that…
In honour of Hugh and of National Poetry Day, I’d like to share part of the poem Keeping Going, written for him by his brother Seamus.
My dear brother, you have good stamina.
You stay on where it happens. Your big tractor
Pulls up at the Diamond, you wave at people,
You shout and laugh above the revs, you keep
Old roads open by driving on the new ones.
You called the pipers’ sporrans whitewash brushes
And then dressed up and marched us through the kitchen.
But you cannot make the dead walk or right wrong.
I see you at the end of your tether sometimes,
In the milking parlour, holding yourself up
Between two cows until your turn goes past,
Then coming to to the smell of dung again
and wondering, is this all? As it was
In the beginning, is now and shall be?
Then rubbing your eyes and seeing our old brush
Up on the byre door, and keeping going.
I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!