Heaney at 70 on the murders

Amid the avalanche of tributes to Seamus Heaney at 70 on Monday, a two part interview with Mark Lawson for Radio 4’s Front Row hits the spot on the topics of the poet’s creative mainsprings, his celebrity and his occasional forays into political comment. The first part was recorded at a London session after his South Bank reading to mark the publication of Stepping Stones, his interviews with the poet Dennis O’Driscoll that serves as a partial autobiography. This is tricky territory for a poet who typically likes the verse to speak for itself and is bashful about too much autobiography beyond it. But here Heaney pitches in about the Troubles and the recent killings. Quotes below the fold.The Troubles says Heaney, had to be lived through but for a writer he adds, quoting Joseph Brodsky: “it happens once it’s literature; twice, it’s cliché… Lyric defiance was as important as civic responsibility at a certain point.
And more direct comment on the impact of the murders of the two soldiers and policemen. He feels: “ deep grief but I don’t despair. The hope is in the institutions. Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness conducted themselves well. I think that above all is the reward. It’s a brutal ignorant waste of life. It teaches us the meaning of the word terrorism. In a sense, ( in the past) with a large “cause” involved, the word “terrorism” was resisted. But these acts were pure and simple terrorism. People on both sides are learning what it means.”

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London