Irish Poet Seamus Heaney Dies

Nobel prize winner Seamus Heaney, “The most important Irish poet since Yeats,” passed away in Dublin early this morning. He was 74.

934_heaney180In the short time since his death, tributes have poured in from all over the globe. But all eyes are on the people of Ireland, whose loss of a national treasure is deeply felt. President Michael D. Higgins, himself a published poet, has spoken of Heaney, “the presence of Seamus was a warm one, full of humour, care and courtesy – a courtesy that enabled him to carry with such wry Northern Irish dignity so many well-deserved honours.” It is that Irish dignity that Higgins credits with boosting national confidence after the economic downturn the nation suffered in 2010.

He carried with him an Irish legacy, born of rural county Derry, that will live on in poems like “Digging” and “Field Work.” Taoiseach Enda Kenny spoke for all of his country when he said the death of Heaney was a “great sorrow to Ireland… “For us, Seamus Heaney was the keeper of language, our codes, our essence as a people.”

Listen to Heaney’s 1995 Nobel lecture below:

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

Ten Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About the Fourth of July

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There are lots of things we expect on the Fourth:  fireworks, friends, family. There are things we love (sparklers, Roman candles, cold beer) and things we despise (sauerkraut, ambrosia, Lee Greenwood… all right, haters… this was from a friend. Direct all your spittle-filled anger elsewhere).

Here are a few unexpected things about the Fourth you can share tomorrow, if only to divert mom’s attention away from Uncle Collin while he takes the youngest  kids ’round back to set off three packs of taped-together Blackcat firecrackers…

10.  No Rush to Get “God Bless America” to the People

Famed American composer Irving Berlin gave his adopted nation one of its greatest and most iconic songs but it didn’t see the light of day because its author didn’t deem it worthy of being sung. Berlin was drafted into the military in the early 1900s and helped to draft a musical comedy for his fellow troops in which he composed the song for its final number — a tune inspired by a phrase his Russian mother would often utter after escaping to America from underneath the iron fist of the bloody Russian empire. However, the composer didn’t think it would fit in the show and kept it in his file for 20 years until singer Kate Smith wanted a patriotic song to sing on the radio as war broke out across Europe. The song became one of the most requested patriotic ditties almost overnight and a staple in American songbooks.  (Source)

White House Book

9.  Ehhhh… We’ll Get To It. We’re… Busy.

July 4th was not declared a federal holiday until 1941.  Most federal holidays are observed on a Monday but despite the temptation of a Guaranteed Long Weekend,  that pesky date made lawmakers leave it be.  (Source)

Read the rest of this entry »


RIP Chinua Achebe: 1931-2013

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Breaking News:  Just announced that Nigerian author Chinua Achebe has passed away at a hospital in Boston. Achebe was eighty-two.

Achebe rose to fame in 1958 with the publication of his first novel Things Fall Apart,  a work that met with both critical and popular success. Other international best-sellers include No Longer At Ease, A Man of the People, Arrow of God and Anthills of the Savannah

For the last four years, Achebe has been the David and Marianna Fisher University Professor and Professor of Africana at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Here are ten memorable quotes from both his lectures and works:

1. “To me, being an intellectual doesn’t mean knowing about intellectual issues; it means taking pleasure in them.”

2.  “When suffering knocks at your door and you say there is no seat for him, he tells you not to worry because he has brought his own stool.”

3. “It is the storyteller who makes us what we are, who creates history. The storyteller creates the memory that the survivors must have – otherwise their surviving would have no meaning.”

4.  “Procrastination is a lazy man’s apology.” –  Anthills of the Savannah

5.  “There is a moral obligation, I think, not to ally oneself with power against the powerless.” –  There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra

6.  “The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.” ―  Things Fall Apart

7.  “We cannot trample upon the humanity of others without devaluing our own. The Igbo, always practical, put it concretely in their proverb Onye ji onye n’ani ji onwe ya: “He who will hold another down in the mud must stay in the mud to keep him down.” ― The Education of a British-Protected Child: Essays

8.  “One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised. ”

9.  “Charity . . . is the opium of the privileged.”

10.  “I believe in the complexity of the human story and that there’s no way you can tell that story in one way and say: This is it. Always there will be someone who can tell it differently depending on where they are standing; the same person telling the story will tell it differently. I masquerade is moving through this big arena. Dancing. If you’re rooted to a spot, you miss a lot of the grace. So you keep moving, and this is the way I think the world’s stories should be told—from many different perspectives.” Think of that masquerade in Igbo festivals that dances in the public arena. The Igbo people say, “If you want to see it well, you must not stand in one place.”


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