Belfast Telegraph

Thousands flock to visit Seamus Heaney's graveside

BY CLAIRE WILLIAMSON AND AMANDA FERGUSON

Seamus Heaney was only buried on Monday, but already thousands of mourners – as well as those wanting to celebrate his life – have flocked to see his final resting place.

Even before the Nobel laureate was laid to rest, many people were visiting the Bellaghy graveside of the man whose poetry touched so many lives.

"On Sunday, people were coming – droves of them – and last night a lot of people were around his grave reciting poetry and playing harps and music," parish priest Father Andrew Dolan said.

He expects the influx of visitors to the cemetery of St Mary's church in the small Co Londonderry village to continue for years.

"In the longer term we're going to have to prepare the place for that," he said.

"I think we have a duty to make it accessible but I think we couldn't have created the spot that nature has created in that corner."

Bookshops have reported that Heaney's books are selling out across Northern Ireland with fans and poetry novices clamouring to get their hands on his work.

Easons and Waterstones told the Belfast Telegraph that within an hour of his death on Friday, both regular customers and those new to poetry were keen to pick up copies of work such as Death Of A Naturalist, The Spirit Level and Human Chain.

The Irish desks at Linenhall Library and Belfast Central library have also been inundated with requests from people to look at Heaney's works.

Michael Conaghan from Waterstones in Belfast said public reaction was immediate.

"We have everything on re-order now," he added.

"We imagine there will be demand for his books for quite a while to come. I was just chatting to a customer who had a letter from Seamus Heaney, so they are treasuring that. I've noticed people not regularly in the poetry section. People felt personally connected to him."

Jonathan Johnston from Easons in Belfast city centre said it sold out of Heaney's books the day after his death.

"As soon as Seamus Heaney passed away we had customers buying up stocks of various titles," he said. "We are waiting for replenishment from the Easons warehouse. All stores have orders in – I know Foyleside in Derry has seen a huge uplift.

"We have had a range of people in, including English teachers, lecturers, housewives and young people."

Professor Paul Simpson, head of the School of English at Queen's University Belfast, said he was thrilled to learn poetry fans were approaching Heaney's work and also that many people were developing an interest in poetry for the first time.

He said the Bellaghy man's universal appeal as a writer was that his work always spoke to people.

"The solidity of his poetry – the language of which is often taut and even uncompromising in its delivery – is what I think resonates with so many," the academic said.

"Heaney's readership therefore transcends teachers, academics and students to reach and touch people of all ages and all cultures.

"Embracing what he himself referred to as a 'new angle of telling', Heaney's poetry consistently offers fresh perspectives, encouraging us to grasp in new ways the often familiar or prosaic elements of our nature, landscape, or even politics and culture.

"I am not surprised therefore that there has been such an upsurge in interest with so many approaching his work for the first time.

"Long may it continue," said Mr Simpson.

QUOTE

"We cannot adequately express our profound sorrow at the loss of one of the world's greatest writers. His impact on literary culture is immeasurable. As his publisher we could not have been prouder to publish his work over nearly 50 years. He was nothing short of an inspiration to the company, and his friendship over many years is a great loss."

Statement from Seamus Heaney's publisher Faber

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