Seamus Heaney died in a Dublin hospital only
hours before the writing of this note.
“You are neither here nor there,” Heaney
once wrote, “a hurry through which known and
strange things pass.”
I’m thinking now of Woody Guthrie who also
died in a hospital. That was in Queens the
same year Frank O’Hara was struck and killed
by a dune buggy on Fire Island, New York
State. O’Hara wrote a famous elegy
remembering the day Billie Holiday died from
liver failure. Terry Sawchuk, who was not a
poet but a hockey player, also died of liver
failure. Sawchuk’s death was a result of
what he called “horseplay.” Horseplay, my
friends, can kill you.
I once read a Seamus Heaney poem at a
funeral. I’m hardly the only one. Wallace
Stevens said that poetry was a “violence
within protecting us from a violence
without.” That is pure Stevens.
Poetry, Heaney paraphrased, is “the
imagination pressing back against the
pressure of reality.” Evie
Christie and Michael
Johnson are doing the pressing this
A nine to five man who has seen poetry,
Heaney once described another ghost.