A new book of interviews with Seamus Heaney shows us a genial, complex man who can scarcely believe his own success at times—but who has throughout his life never wavered in his belief in the power of poetryby Frieda Klotz / December 20, 2008 / Leave a comment
Published in December 2008 issue of Prospect Magazine
Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney
by Dennis O’Driscoll (Faber and Faber, £22.50)
When the 20-year-old James Joyce first met WB Yeats, it is said that he told the older poet: “you are too old to help me.” Seamus Heaney’s first meeting with the poet Patrick Kavanagh makes a telling contrast. They encountered each other in a Dublin pub as Kavanagh—35 years Heaney’s senior, and an established eminence of Irish poetry—was on his way back from the gents’ toilets. Heaney, aged 28 and already something of a success, asked: “Mr Kavanagh, can I buy you a drink?” Kavanagh at first said “no.” But when a friend told him who the person offering to buy the drink was, he changed his mind: “Kavanagh says to me, ‘Are you Heaney?’ rhyming me with Rainey, as people did in the country at home. ‘Well, I’ll have a Scotch.’ So I took that as a pass.” The two poets then talked for a short while; they would meet again just once.