This afternoon was the event I’ve been excited about for months. Seamus Heaney’s reading. For poetry lovers, it’s a special experience to hear a favorite poet read his or her work, and hearing Heaney read has been a bucket list dream—albeit one I never expected to happen. For you non-English geeks, this is kind of how most people feel about about seeing their favorite singer or band in concert. Except this is way better. Heaney was charming. He read some of my favorite poems, and he made comments and told stories. I’ll share just a couple of favorite moments.
After he read these lines,
I ate the day
Deliberately, that its tang
Might quicken me all into verb, pure verb. (“Oysters”)
(some of my favorite lines of poetry) he looked up and smiled and said, “Usually I feel more like a noun.”
And before he read this poem, “Miracles” (another favorite), he told about a time when he had a mild stroke and friends helped him down the stairs to the ambulance, and how that experience reminded him of the story of the Jesus healing the paralytic man whose friends lowered him from the roof. He suggested that the first miracle of the story is friends who help the man.
Not the one who takes up his bed and walks
But the ones who have known him all along
And carry him in –
Their shoulders numb, the ache and stoop deeplocked
In their backs, the stretcher handles
Slippery with sweat. And no let up
Until he’s strapped on tight, made tiltable
and raised to the tiled roof, then lowered for healing.
Be mindful of them as they stand and wait
For the burn of the paid out ropes to cool,
Their slight lightheadedness and incredulity
To pass, those who had known him all along.
It made me reflect on how grateful for my friends who have known me all along. The ones who carry me in when I can’t manage it on my own.
As a sort of souvenir of the day, I bought a beautiful broadside of the poem “Had I Not Been Awake,” which I immediately framed and hung on my wall.
In spite of the fact that I sat behind the most fidgety guy ever, who apparently was there to wiggle around and cuddle with his girlfriend, it was a perfectly wonderful afternoon. I loved every minute of it.