August 30, 2013

Seamus Heaney passed away today.

As my good friend and poet, Denise Blake, put it, "A gentle man goes to his rest."

A few years back I had my moment with Seamus and I wrote about it.

Seamus Heaney is in the room

On Tuesday the 20th, Karen and I attended a reception and poetry reading by Seamus Heaney and Peter Fallon at Villanova U. A great night. At the reception, my new painting was stuck in the corner but made a dramatic backdrop to the festivities. I was, of course, very nervous that he might just hate the painting... insecurity, thy name is Barrie!

(I've now painted all four Irish Nobel Laureates -- Joyce, Yeats, Beckett and now, Heaney.)

When Karen and I were able to make our way over to and speak with Seamus, I introduced myself as the painter of the portrait, he smiled and greeted me graciously. Karen introduced herself as the "Calendar Girl" because she had corresponded with him over the use of some of his poetry in our Ireland Calendar. Gesturing across the room towards where the painting sat in the distance, he told me he hadn't had a chance to get a good look at the painting, and leaning closer he said, "I didn't want to seem to be genuflecting to my own image."
We laughed and he said, "But I think looking at it with the artist would be acceptable," and he took my elbow and guided me through the crowd to the painting.

When we got to the painting, he was surprised to see that there are lines from his poetry in the painting, and we were just beginning to talk about that when Jim Murphy's voice came over the loudspeaker announcing the beginning of the speaking part of the evening. Thus ended my
tête-à-tête with Ireland's greatest living poet. Karen snapped this photo as the speakers began.