Snow Patrol news & community since 2008.

I Can Hover: Seamus Heaney – In Memoriam

gary44As usual in the classroom I wasn’t paying attention. Daydreaming I expect perhaps about playing for Northern Ireland in the world cup or playing guitar at Wembley stadium. Aged 14 I hadn’t quite switched on at school. I didn’t know it yet but I was about to. Up to that point I was a C (ok D) student happy enough to get by with minimum effort. School was that place I got the bus to every day and got to play sports some days in the afternoons and not much more. Then Mark McKee started working as an english teacher and brought with him three secret weapons. The works of Van Morrison, Bob Dylan and one Mr Seamus Heaney. Yes, the day he arrived at the school would change my life but as I say I didn’t know it yet.

As Mr McKee (as I knew him then, Mark he is to me now. Strange calling your teacher by their first name at any time in your life) began to read from the little volume of poetry in his hand I found myself, for the first time that day, maybe that week (sorry mum, this will all be news to you), actually listening…

“Between my finger and my thumb…

The course boot nestled on the lug…

Loving their cool hardness in our hands…

Nicking and slicing neatly…

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap

Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge

Through living roots awaken in my head…”

Mr Mckee was reading Digging by Seamus Heaney and I was hooked. I devoured the volume Death of a Naturalist then North, the Station Island, the lot. Seamus Heaney made me want to be a writer. I wrote poetry every day and was published at 15, many times. All of it terrible and I have to read it now, if I ever do, from behind splayed fingers but it started me on the path that would take me to here, sitting in California writing Snow Patrol’s seventh album after a 20 year career that has taken me around the world many times and shown me things I never dreamed of. Seeing the whole stadium become a giant Polish flag while grown men wept tears of joy during a U2 show after we supported them. Seeing the great barrier reef. Jumping from the tallest building in the southern hemisphere (long story). And realizing my childhood daydream of playing in Wembley Stadium. All this and so much more simply from reading Seamus Heaney as a 14 year old boy.

There are people, as my friend Gabrielle is fond of saying that are part of an ‘invisible tribe’. Artists and writers that touch people on a level that beds deeper into our souls and hearts. People of profound light, love and kindness that simply and maybe even without their our knowledge make us and the world around them better. Stephen Fry is one. Guy Garvey another. To see them on the stage, screen or on the page makes us feel safer, happier, stronger, more centred and less confused by life and what the hell we’re doing here. I would make Heaney chieftain of that ‘invisible tribe’. A leader we could (and through his words we still of course can; and we must) get behind. A man to whom I expect the thought of being a leader would be ridiculous but these men and women, these are the ones we must get behind. People that lead with their words and deeds and not with the empty promises of election campaigns or the grandstanding of the pulpit. If we are as good as our words then Seamus Heaney is as good as any soul who worked this earth. And the earth, the dirt, the sky, the sun, the birds, the wind, the men, the women, these are Heaney’s great inspiration and love. He luxuriated in the language of the ground behind his feet and the sky above him. Words that will live forever. And thank god for that. And as he now, sadly, returns to the earth that inspired him we must return to his words for inspiration of our own. A call to arms for the invisible tribe, for the writers, artists, singers, players, thinkers…

“Between my finger and my thumb the squat pen rests. I’ll dig with it”.

Digging. Seamus Heaney 1939 – 2013.

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Categorised in: Blogs, I can hover

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