Have your say: what did Heaney mean to you?
As tributes flood in, we’d like to know your experience of the writer’s work
“Generations of Irish people will have been familiar with Seamus’ poems. Scholars all over the world will have gained from the depth of the critical essays, and so many rights organisations will want to thank him for all the solidarity he gave to the struggles within the republic of conscience.”
The words of Michael D Higgins go some way, at least, to capturing Heaney’s legacy as a poet, playwright and academic.
As tributes flood in, we’d like to know what Heaney meant to you.
To set the ball rolling, I offer my own two cents worth.
Russian critic Viktor Shklovsky is credited with introducing the concept of defamiliarisation, also translated as estrangement, into the literary lexicon.
The purpose of art, as he saw it, was to shake us out of our habitual perception of things by making the banal, the everyday unfamiliar.
Revitilising our perception of the commonplace by, paradoxically, estranging us from it.
If journalism seeks, at least in theory, to make the strange familiar, art, according to Shklovsky, moves in the opposite direction, in seeking to make the familiar strange.
For me, Heaney’s work is imbued with this concept of art, and better understood when keeping it in mind.
A good example is the title poem in his District and Circle collection, where a potentially ordinary trip on the London underground morphs into a fiery descent into the underworld.