Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)

September 10th, 2013 § 0 comments

Following close on the death of John Hollander, the poetry world lost, on August 30, Seamus Heaney. I had no special connection with him, beyond admiring his work, and once obtaining permission to use his remarkable translation of Beowulf for a high school English Lit anthology I was editing (the venerable series it belonged to died soon after, victim of a corporate merger). The translation was originally commissioned by the editors of the Norton Anthology of English Literature, one of whom, the medievalist Alfred David, served as Heaney’s main consultant in matters Anglo-Saxon. David (who as far as I know is still with us) is an admirable poet-translator himself; he translated the three lais by Marie de France in the Norton Anthology, one of which (Chevrefoil) I originally commissioned from him for our own (stillborn) anthology.

There is a lot of Heaney I have not yet read, notably his two adaptations from Sophocles. These are right up my alley, you might say, but my general skittishness about “adaptations” has so far made me hesitate.

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