Earlier this summer, I had the pleasure of visiting a small museum dedicated to Seamus Heaney. Located in Bellaghy in Ulster, “home” place is exactly the right term for this very special place. Museums don’t have to be large to be effective and I found that, in Ireland and Northern Ireland, there are many small museums that are amazingly effective, often more so than their large and famous counterparts.
The area around Bellaghy was Heaney’s home and an inspiration and source for his writing. The lower floor is devoted to an exhibition about Heaney, but upstairs are two important spaces. One is for children (most museums I visited in Ireland and Northern Ireland were devoted to providing space for children to explore and create). The other is for the words of Heaney himself. You can listen to him reading many of his poems and I spent as much time as possible letting his words in his own voice wash over me. They are printed, if you want to follow along, but I found that his voice in my ears was worth more than any word on the page.
I have read Heaney’s work many times over the years and was privileged to hear him live as he read his work once at the University of Michigan. Regardless of the number of visitors, as I sat on the upper floor of the museum, putting on head set after head set, I could retreat into his world, his words, his voice.
Biography and links to some poems, podcasts, videos, and articles: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/seamus-heaney
“Digging” on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNRkPU1LSUg
Seamus Heaney in conversation with Michael Laskey, fellow poet and co-founder of the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival. This is an edited version of an interview recorded live at the Poetry Prom 2010 organised by The Poetry Trust. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/podcasts/75876/seamus-heaney