Seamus Heaney

Nobel Laureate

Lithograph with Monotype Variations 28" x 32" 
Printed by Derriere L'toile Studios

From the Haw Lantern

I thought of walking round and round a space
Utterly empty, utterly a source,
Where the decked chestnut tree had lost its place
In our front hedge above the wallflowers.
The white chips jumped and jumped and skited hight.
I heard the hatchet's differentiated
Accurate cut, the crack, the sigh
And collapse of what luxuriated
Through the shocked tips and wreakage of it all,
Deep planted and long gone, my coeval
Chestnut from a jam jar in a hole,
Its heft and hush become a bright nowhere
A soul ramifying and forever
Silent, beyond silence, listened for

Lithograph and monotype variations diptych
32" x 28" Printed by Derriere L'Etoile Studio
Price on request

22”x31” ink and monotype

Penelope worked with some guarantee of a plot
whatever she unweaved at night
might advanced it all by day.
Me, I ground the same stones for fifty years
and what I undid was never the thing I had done
I was unrewarded as darkness at a mirror
I prepared my surface to survive what came over it—
Cartographers, printmakers, all that lining and inking
For them it was a new start and a clean slate
everytime. For me, it was a coming full circle
like the ripple perfected in stillness.
So. To commemorate me image the faces
stripped off the face of a quarry. Practice
Colitus Interruptus on a pile of old lithographs.


I met Seamus in Adams House at Harvard. His door was open. He was on crutches sitting in his room, and apologized for not standing.  My having attended the University College Cork, Ireland helped him understand me, as did the bottle of Jamison I brought. We became friends and collaborated several times. He had not received the Nobel Prize, yet, and had more time. When we went to Maurice Sanchez’s lithography studio, he spent a long time asking Maurice questions, fascinated with how a print was made. He wrote out his sonnet from The Haw Lantern about the chestnut tree and his mother, ending in the delicious line…..”beyond silence, listened for.”

In combining monotype and lithography, I could let my imagination play with the poem. This was the first time I’d worked in multiples. The former collaborations were one-offs. It would be too precious to make only one with Seamus, so we made a small edition. I varied the image from sheet to sheet. The one I enjoy most is the dark one where the poem appears in the white chips of the wood being cut. The whole poem is there, hidden in the dark ink, except where it shines through in the white chips. If you know this, you don’t need to see the words, the same way when you pass your bookshelf and see a favorite title, you don’t pull it down and read the whole thing. It’s there, and you smile. 

We went on to work with a poem about lithographs, perhaps based on Seamus’ studio visit. And then the piece about Saint Kevin and the Blackbird. After he won the Nobel Prize, we had lunch and he confided that he wondered if he’d ever write anything good again, or would the prize signal the end of his creativity? It’s sad to see him fall out of favor among younger poets, but time and poetry move on. I look forward to when his reputation returns full circle.  


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