Poetry festival to honour memory of Irish laureate
THE Cheltenham Poetry Festival will seek to honour the memory of Irish poet Seamus Heaney, who has died at the age of 74.
The Nobel laureate died in hospital in Dublin, prompting tributes from former US president Bill Clinton, actors, fellow poets and politicians.
For Anna Saunders, executive director of Cheltenham Poetry Festival, the loss of Heaney will be felt keenly by poets and poetry lovers across the world.
She said: "I was very shocked when I heard that he had died, he was one of the great poets.
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"Many people will have been introduced to his poetry at school and probably come across it again later in life.
"When I heard he had died, I posted a link to his poem Digging on Twitter."
In Digging(1966), Heaney, the son of a farmer, contrasts his work as a writer with the toil of his grandfather digging away in his garden.
It is this poem, from 1966, that will be part of Heaney's legacy to the world, said Anna.
She added: "Seamus Heaney was a very accessible writer, using everyday language.
"He wrote about universal themes, talking about the relationship with the natural world and his poetry was very much alive.
"You could be in the middle of a city and read his poetry and feel in touch with nature.
"We have already been talking about running an event next year at the festival in his honour.
"I think his death will see a lot more people go back to his poetry, especially younger people."
Heaney also helped introduce people to poetry through the anthology he co-edited with fellow poet Ted Hughes, called The Rattle Bag (1957).
It included the two writers' favourite poems, some rare discoveries and works translated from other languages and from oral cultures.
In a tribute, Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary said: "Both his stunning work and his life were a gift to the world. His mind, heart and his uniquely -Irish gift for language made him our finest poet of the rhythms of ordinary lives and a powerful voice for peace. And he was a good and true friend."
The poet is survived by his wife, Marie, and children, Christopher, Michael and Catherine Ann.
A funeral mass will take place today at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook, south Dublin, followed by burial in his birthplace of Bellaghy, Co Derry.
The 1995 Nobel prize winner was born in April 1939. The eldest of nine children, he grew up on a small farm called Mossbawn near Bellaghy in Northern Ireland. His upbringing often played out in the poetry he wrote in later years.
U2 front man Bono said: "As an activist he was the quietest storm that ever blew into town. In fact, in so many things he was a gentle genius, whose words challenged us with the grit and beauty of life as much as they gave us solace.
"He wrote with a brevity that strangely spilled to the brim."
Heaney's world-renowned poetry first came to public attention in the mid-1960s with his first major collection, Death of a Naturalist, published in 1966.
The first poem, Digging, resonates with many today who studied it at schools on both sides of the Irish border, in much the same way as Tollund Man does in Britain for GCSE students of a certain age.