Awhile with Seamus Heaney

The world gasped in shock when renowned Irish poet Seamus Heaney passed away in August of last year. Larry McCluskey’s sensitive amalgamation of readings and recitals of Heaney’s poetry with music and anecdote provides an experience that encapsulates Heaney’s significance as writer, friend, husband, thinker and prominent national figure.

McCluskey’s performance is not a lecture but a heartfelt commemoration that narrates the life story of a remarkable poet, and attempts to reveal the consciousness of this man whose imprint shall long impress upon the literary world.

The Nobel Laureate was not just a leading English-language poet, but a global ambassador of the art. McCluskey approaches Heaney’s life story chronologically, tracing his writing from childhood memories of Mossbawn that relate the sense of place and homeliness in his work, to his days as undergraduate at Queen’s University in Belfast, his lecturing positions at Berkeley and Harvard, his response to the troubles, and finally his declining health.

McCluskey has been overwhelmed by choice of material, and moves from Heaney’s poetry to his academic essays, translations and social commentary. His selection is nuanced, paying as much attention to grand themes in Heaney’s writing such as the question of faith in a country so tainted by religious conflict, as to his reluctance to write ‘for politics’, and his observations of the poetic in the everyday. McCluskey’s set-up is low-key and focused on Heaney’s talent, yet he punctuates the spoken word beautifully by playing Celtic music on a harmonica and tin whistle, adding texture and atmosphere to the performance.

You do not need to be versed in Heaney’s poetry to enjoy this show. Those familiar with his work will enjoy the quality of McCluskey recitals and the anecdotal nature of the content; as for those unfamiliar with little more than the poet’s name, Awhile with Seamus Heaney presents a perfect opportunity to discover the Irish poet’s best pieces and favourite themes whilst grasping the context of his creativity.

McCluskey’s performance is not a lecture but a heartfelt commemoration that narrates the life story of a remarkable poet, and attempts to reveal the consciousness of this man whose imprint shall long impress upon the literary world. 

Reviews by Maria Hagan

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The Blurb

A personal journey by Irish actor-director, Larry McCluskey through the late Nobel Poet’s best and most popular work, a dramatic reading, with linking commentary and live music. The journey moves from Heaney’s childhood, through his emergence as Ireland’s foremost poet, international eminence and awards, to the 1995 Nobel Prize for Literature. Heaney was not just Ireland’s finest modern poet - he was a colossus on the world literary stage and a wise commentator in the long journey to the Irish Peace Process. The reading ends with the poet’s powerful late work, health setback and unexpected death.

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