Many consider Seamus Heaney the best Irish poet since Yeats. He died Thursday in a Dublin hospital, after a short lllness. The New York Times says that Heaney's "lyrical beauty and ethical depth won him the Nobel Prize in 1995 and gave him a prominence far beyond literary circles."
Mr. Heaney was born on a family farm in Londonderry in Northern Ireland but, as a Catholic and a nationalist, chose to live in Dublin. His poems often mined the images of his childhood — the peat bogs, small towns and potato farms — and, in collections like 1975’s “North,” delved into the sectarian violence that was ripping the North apart, exploring its sorrows and causes, though he avoided becoming a spokesman for the Republican cause.
As his reputation grew in the 1980s and 1990s, he remained an accessible and public writer, a respected translator, broadcaster and, most importantly, a prolific poet with a gifted eye. Publishing more than a dozen major collections of poems between 1966 and 2010, he rose to become one of the most distinctive literary voices of the 20th century. Robert Lowell described him as the “most important Irish poet since Yeats.”
Heaney's "Remembering Malibu" was written after he had lunch in at the home of the novelist and screenwriter Brian Moore, on a bluff overlooking Malibu beach. It is contained in Heaney's 1985 collection, "Station Island." Here's an excerpt:
The Pacific at your door was wilder and colder
than my notion of the Pacific
and that was perfect, for I would have rotted
beside the luke-warm ocean I imagined.
Yet no way was its cold ascetic
as our monk-fished, snowed-into Atlantic;
no beehive hut for you
on the abstract sands of Malibu --
it was early Mondrian and his dunes
misting towards the ideal forms
though the wind and sea neighed loud
as wind and sea noise amplified.
Heaney dedicated the poem to Moore, who died at his home in Malibu in 1999.