This week is Seamus Heaney’s 70th birthday. The Irish national television station, RTE, has made a new documentary about the poet that airs tonight. It should be available for webstreaming for a week after broadcast at RTE’s Heaney at 70 website. I have no idea if it will be downloadable outside Ireland, but it’s worth a shot. [Update: Nope, not downloadable outside Ireland. Sorry to get your hopes up.]
I’ve been reading Dennis O’Driscoll’s wonderful and massive book of interviews with Heaney, Stepping Stones over the past couple of months, and while it wouldn’t be right to review it without finishing it first, I must say it’s a marvelous consideration of the poet’s life, his memories and ruminations on the significant events that shaped him, and contains some fascinating insights into some of his best-known poems. Its strength is the digressive nature of the recorded conversations — obviously between two old friends who know Irish poetry inside out — which brings out both an air of candor and also creates an atmosphere of after-dinner conversation that sets the book apart from a typical dry, academic biography.
If you’ve never read Seamus Heaney, I’d recommend running out to your local bookstore and picking up Opened Ground, which collects the best poems from his career up to 1996. If you’re already a fan of his poetry, I recommend Stepping Stones highly.
Seamus Heaney’s biography at nobelprize.org
Watch a video of various Irish television & arts personalities talking about why they love the poetry of Seamus Heaney: