In Memoriam: Seamus Heaney

In Memoriam: Seamus Heaney

Sept. 12, 2013

Seamus Heaney by Emma Dodge Hanson
Seamus Heaney (Emma Dodge Hanson photo)

Seamus Heaney visited the Skidmore campus on three separate occasions, the most memorable of which for the community as a whole was surely his appearance for the  Frances Steloff Lecture, which he delivered in October 2000 from the main stage of Bernhard Theater.

The throng that converged to hear him was far too large for the venue so a disappointed crowd filled the lobby after failing to secure seats. Heaney asked if the ceremony leading to his honorary degree could wait a few minutes and then appeared on the stairs to give a spontaneous, deeply moving reading to those who were shut out of the main event. No one who was there will ever forget the power and warmth of that impromptu performance. We heard afterward from many people, students especially, who were deeply moved by his willingness to address them and to respond to questions in the reception area.

During each of his visits, Heaney did much more than was required of him. Twice, when faculty poet Barry Goldensohn was the College’s director of creative writing, Heaney went into poetry workshop and literature classes to work with students. On two occasions he participated in special morning sessions with English department faculty to talk about poetry.

A devoted friend to Salmagundi, the arts and culture journal edited by Skidmore Professor Robert Boyers, Heaney contributed several poems and a number of major essays, one in a special issue largely devoted to considerations of his poetry, another in an issue on "The Sense of the Past," and others in miscellaneous general issues.

This week Salmagundi  celebrates his life and art by revisiting his Salmagundi poems and essays.

(Cover photo: Peggy and Robert Boyers with poet Seamus Heaney during his 2000 visit to Skidmore. Emma Dodge Hanson photo)

Tags: Campus Life, Community, Seamus Heaney, Salmagundi, Robert Boyers, Frances Steloff Lecture