Seamus Heaney

(Seamus Justin Heaney)

Quotes
Quote Topics Cited
A person from Northern Ireland is naturally cautious.
A public expectation, it has to be said, not of poetry as such but of political positions variously approvable by mutually disapproving groups. Literature, Writers & Writing
Anybody serious about poetry knows how hard it is to achieve anything worthwhile in it. Literature, Writers & Writing
Anyone born and bred in Northern Ireland can't be too optimistic.
As a young poet, you need corroboration, and that's what publication does.
As writers and readers, as sinners and citizens, our realism and our aesthetic sense make us wary of crediting the positive note.
At home in Ireland, there's a habit of avoidance, an ironical attitude towards the authority figure.
But that citizen's perception was also at one with the truth in recognizing that the very brutality of the means by which the IRA were pursuing change was destructive of the trust upon which new possibilities would have to be based. Truth ;Trust
Dylan Thomas is now as much a case history as a chapter in the history of poetry. History ;Literature, Writers & Writing
Eternal life can mean utter reverence for life itself. Life
Even if the hopes you started out with are dashed, hope has to be maintained. Hope
Even if the last move did not succeed, the inner command says move again.
Every time you read a poem aloud to yourself in the presence of others, you are reading it into yourself and them. Voice helps to carry words farther and deeper than the eye. Time
History says, 'Don't hope on this side of the grave.' History ;Hope
I always believed that whatever had to be written would somehow get itself written.
I always had a superstitious fear of setting up a too well-designed writing place and then finding that the writing had absconded.
I believe we are put here to improve civilisation.
I came from a farming background, and my career was teaching.
I credit poetry for making this space-walk possible. Literature, Writers & Writing
I don't do as many readings as I used to. There was a time when I was on the road a lot more, at home in Ireland, in Britain, in Canada and the States, a time when I had more stamina and appetite for it. Time
I don't think my intelligence is naturally analytic or political.
I feel myself part of something. Not only being part of a community but part of an actual moment and a movement of Irish writing and art. That sense of being part of the whole thing is the deepest joy. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
I have always thought of poems as stepping stones in one's own sense of oneself. Every now and again, you write a poem that gives you self-respect and steadies your going a little bit farther out in the stream. At the same time, you have to conjure the next stepping stone because the stream, we hope, keeps flowing. Time ;Hope
I have begun to think of life as a series of ripples widening out from an original center. Life
I spend almost every morning with mail. Morning
I suppose you could say my father's world was Thomas Hardy and my mother's D.H. Lawrence.
I suppose you inevitably fall into habits of expression.
I think childhood is, generally speaking, a preparation for disappointment.
I think of Dermot Healy as the heir to Patrick Kavanagh.
I think of the bog as a feminine goddess-ridden ground, rather like the territory of Ireland itself.
I think that water is immediately interesting. It's just, as an element, it is full of life. It is associated with origin; it is bright - it reflects you. Life
I think the first little jolt I got was reading Gerard Manley Hopkins - I liked other poems... but Hopkins was kind of electric for me - he changed the rules with speech, and the whole intensity of the language was there and so on.
I would say that something important for me and for my generation in Northern Ireland was the 1947 Education Act, which allowed students who won scholarships to go on to secondary schools and thence to university. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
If poetry and the arts do anything, they can fortify your inner life, your inwardness. Life ;Literature, Writers & Writing
If you go into an underground train in London - probably anywhere, but chiefly in London - there's that sense of almost entering a ghostly dimension. People are very still and quiet; they don't exchange many pleasantries.
I'm a firm believer in learning by heart. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
I'm not personally obsessed with death. At a certain age, the light that you live in is inhabited by the shades - it 'tis. Death
I'm very conscious that people dear to me are alive in my imagination - poets in particular.
In a war situation or where violence and injustice are prevalent, poetry is called upon to be something more than a thing of beauty. War & Peace ;Literature, Writers & Writing
In a way, Anglo-Saxon poetry cannot be translated. Literature, Writers & Writing
In fact, in lyric poetry, truthfulness becomes recognizable as a ring of truth within the medium itself. Truth ;Literature, Writers & Writing
In my early teens, I acquired a kind of representative status: went on behalf of the family to wakes and funerals and so on. And I would be counted on as an adult contributor when it came to farm work - the hay in the summertime, for example. Families, Children & Parenting ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
In Northern Ireland, helicopters are not usually used to promote poetry. Literature, Writers & Writing
In poetry, everything can be faked but the intensity of utterance. Literature, Writers & Writing
In the United States, in poetry workshops, it's now quite a thing to make graduate students learn poems by heart. Literature, Writers & Writing
It is very true to say that work done by writers is quite often an attempt to give solid expression to that which is bothering them... They feel they have got it right if they express the stress. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
It's difficult to learn poems off by heart that don't rhyme.
I've always associated the moment of writing with a moment of lift, of joy, of unexpected reward.
I've been in the habit of helping people.
I've nothing against the Queen personally. I had lunch at the Palace once upon a time. Time
I've said it before about the Nobel Prize: it's like being struck by a more or less benign avalanche. It was unexpected, unlooked for, and extraordinary.
Loyalism, or Unionism, or Protestantism, or whatever you want to call it, in Northern Ireland - it operates not as a class system, but a caste system.
Manifesting that order of poetry where we can at last grow up to that which we stored up as we grew. Literature, Writers & Writing
Memory has always been fundamental for me. In fact, remembering what I had forgotten is the way most of the poems get started.
My experience is that prose usually equals duty - last minute, overdue-deadline stuff or a panic lecture to be written.
My father and mother had no sense of entitlement for their children.
My father was a creature of the archaic world, really. He would have been entirely at home in a Gaelic hill-fort. His side of the family, and the houses I associate with his side of the family, belonged to a traditional rural Ireland. Families, Children & Parenting
My language and my sensibility are yearning to admit a kind of religious or transcendent dimension. But then there's the reality: there's no Heaven, no afterlife of the sort we were promised, and no personal God. Religion & God
My passport's green.
My point is there's a hidden Scotland in anyone who speaks the Northern Ireland speech. It's a terrific complicating factor, not just in Northern Ireland, but Ireland generally.
Nowadays, what an award gives is a sense of solidarity with the poetry guild, as it were: sustenance coming from the assent of your peers on the judging panel. Literature, Writers & Writing
One doesn't want one's identity coerced.
One of the best descriptions of the type of writer I am was given by Tom Paulin, who described himself as a 'binge' writer - like a binge drinker. I go on binges.
Poems that come swiftly are usually the ones that you keep.
Poetry is a domestic art, most itself when most at home. Literature, Writers & Writing ;Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
Poetry is always slightly mysterious, and you wonder what is your relationship to it. Literature, Writers & Writing
Poetry is more a threshold than a path. Literature, Writers & Writing
Poetry is what we do to break bread with the dead. Literature, Writers & Writing
Since I was a schoolboy, I've been used to being recognized on the road by old and young, and being bantered with and, indeed, being taunted.
Sonnet is about movement in a form.
The amount of sensory material stored up or stored down in the brain's and the body's systems is inestimable. It's like a culture at the bottom of a jar, although it doesn't grow, I think, or help anything else to grow unless you find a way to reach it and touch it.
The completely solitary self: that's where poetry comes from, and it gets isolated by crisis, and those crises are often very intimate also. Literature, Writers & Writing
The day I entered St Columb's College, my parents bought me a Conway Stewart pen. It was a special afternoon, of course. We were going to be parting that evening; they were aware of it, I was aware of it, nothing much was said about it.
The end of art is peace. War & Peace ;Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
The experiment of poetry, as far as I am concerned, happens when the poem carries you beyond where you could have reasonably expected to go. Literature, Writers & Writing
The experimental poetry thing is not my thing. It's a programme of the avant-garde: basically a refusal of the kind of poetry I write. Literature, Writers & Writing
The fact of the matter is that the most unexpected and miraculous thing in my life was the arrival in it of poetry itself - as a vocation and an elevation almost. Life ;Literature, Writers & Writing
The faking of feelings is a sin against the imagination.
The gift of writing is to be self-forgetful, to get a surge of inner life or inner supply or unexpected sense of empowerment, to be afloat, to be out of yourself. Life
The group of writers I had grown up with in the '60s - Derek Mahon, Michael Longley, James Simmons, John Hewitt, Paul Muldoon - formed a very necessary and self-sustaining group.
The Heaneys were aristocrats, in the sense that they took for granted a code of behavior that was given and unspoken. Argumentation, persuasion, speech itself, for God's sake, just seemed otiose and superfluous to them. Religion & God
The Ireland I now inhabit is one that these Irish contemporaries have helped to imagine.
The kind of poet who founds and reconstitutes values is somebody like Yeats or Whitman - these are public value-founders.
The kinds of truth that art gives us many, many times are small truths. They don't have the resonance of an encyclical from the Pope stating an eternal truth, but they partake of the quality of eternity. There is a sort of timeless delight in them. Truth ;Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
The murder of Sean Brown hurt my soul.
The poet is on the side of undeceiving the world.
The problem as you get older... is that you become more self-aware. At the same time, you have to surprise yourself. There's no way of arranging the surprise, so it is tricky. Time
Then as the years went on and my listening became more deliberate, I would climb up on an arm of our big sofa to get my ear closer to the wireless speaker.
There is risk and truth to yourselves and the world before you. Truth
There's never going to be a united Ireland, you know.
To encounter 'Beowulf' is like taking a sledgehammer to a quarry face. You must bang in there.
Tom Sleigh's poetry is hard-earned and well founded. I great admire the way it refuses to cut emotional corners and yet achieves a sense of lyric absolution. Literature, Writers & Writing
We go to poetry, we go to literature in general, to be forwarded within ourselves. Literature, Writers & Writing
What I've said before, only half in joke, is that everybody in Ireland is famous. Or, maybe better, say everybody is familiar. Fame
When I first encountered the name of the city of Stockholm, I little thought that I would ever visit it, never mind end up being welcomed to it as a guest of the Swedish Academy and the Nobel Foundation.
Whether it be a matter of personal relations within a marriage or political initiatives within a peace process, there is no sure-fire do-it-yourself kit. Families, Children & Parenting ;War & Peace
Without needing to be theoretically instructed, consciousness quickly realizes that it is the site of variously contending discourses.
Write whatever you like!
Yeats was 18th-century oratory, almost.
You can have Irish identity in the north and also have your Irish passport.
You yourself don't have to be shaken by mortal danger in order to feel your mortality.
Your temperament is what you write with, but it's also how you deal with the world.