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The voice of the poet

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 poetry

By Frieda Klotz   December 2008

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…

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