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Cheltenham Poetry Festival to honour Irish poet Seamus Heaney

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: August 31, 2013

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THE Cheltenham Poetry Festival will seek to honour the memory of Irish poet Seamus Heaney next year.

The Nobel laureate died in hospital in Dublin, aged 74, prompting tributes from former US president Bill Clinton, U2 frontman Bono, 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.

“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, Heaney, the son of a farmer, contrasts his work as a writer with 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 Rattlebag (1957).

It included their 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 wonderful work, like that of his fellow Irish Nobel Prize winners Shaw, Yeats, and Beckett, will be a lasting gift for all the world."

Heaney is survived by his wife, Marie, and children, Christopher, Michael and Catherine Ann.

A funeral mass will take place on Monday 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, on a small farm called Mossbawn near Bellaghy in Co Derry, Northern Ireland, and his upbringing often played out in the poetry he wrote in later years.

U2 frontman Bono said: "We all envied how he made that most complicated of things, the balancing of work and family, appear so simple.

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.

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