Senate debates

Thursday, 14 November 2013


Heaney, Mr Seamus

10:42 am

Photo of Ursula StephensUrsula Stephens (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I, and also on behalf of Senator Mason, move:

That the Senate—

(a) pays tribute to the Irish poet and Nobel laureate, Mr Seamus Heaney, who died in Dublin on 30 August 2013 at the age of 74;

(b) notes that:

(i) he was the author of more than a dozen collections of poetry, as well as critical essays, translations and works for the stage,

(ii) he held lectureships at some of the world's foremost universities, including Oxford, Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley,

(iii) as a Catholic native of Northern Ireland, he repeatedly explored the deep ethical conundrums that have afflicted Ireland, but that while much of his work concerned the strife and uncertainties of the 'Troubles', he avoided polemics and wrote poetry that was meditative and uplifting,

(iv) throughout his work, Mr Heaney was concerned with morality, but was never pompous; he was enraptured, as he once put it, by 'words as bearers of history and mystery', and his accessible, lyrical poetry made him one of the most widely read poets in Australia and the world,

(v) he visited Australia in the early 1990s and was anticipating a return visit, and

(vi) he expressed a deep interest in our Indigenous and colonial history and found the experiences we all share are more inspirational than our differences, and at the close of his Nobel address, he spoke of 'the power to persuade that vulnerable part of our consciousness of its rightness in spite of the evidence of wrongness all around it; the power to remind us that we are hunters and gatherers of values, that our very solitudes and distresses are creditable, in so far as they, too, are an earnest of our veritable human being';

(c) acknowledges That the Irish community in Australia, the lovers of the thoughtful phrase, and all those who share Heaney's fascination with the possibility of a world beyond the visible, are suffering the loss of a poet who had, above all, the human touch; and

(d) extends its deep sympathy to his wife Marie, sons Michael and Christopher and daughter Catherine.

Question agreed to.