High-voltage-HeaneyNotes on a Voice: Christina Patterson tunes into the poet who made English sing

From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, January/February 2014

In a poem in “Electric Light”, Seamus Heaney talked of “language that can still knock language sideways”. This is what he did. He took ordinary words like “sod” and “drain” and “rot” and turned them to gold.

When he won the Nobel prize, in 1995, he was praised for “works of lyrical beauty and ethical depths which exalt everyday miracles and the living past”. Heaney, who died in August aged 74, never called his poems “miracles”, but he did talk about falling in love with the “voltage” of language. He wanted, he said, to write with “a musically satisfying order of sounds”, and more than almost any poet of the past 50 years, he made English sing.

Famous Seamus, as he came to be known, scooped most of the big prizes for poetry, and sold more books than most of his peers combined. But if he seemed to retain the common touch in the way he wrote and spoke, this was only because he hid the art.

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