Seamus Heaney died yesterday.
He was my favourite contemporary poet, and it is a personal loss as well. I have met him, I was his interpreter, guide and driver during two of his trips to my hometown of Mantova. I translated a speech of his for a book about his ties to Virgil. He once attended the debut of a play of mine…
I hero-worshipped him. And I’m shattered.
It was a huge privilege to know him, to work with him. He was so profound and kind-hearted, he had such keen and laughing eyes. He seemed to always know what was in other people’s minds. He had this scintillating conversation, and now and then he lifted a curtain on this or that memory of his – and you caught the echo of a line, an image, and thought: oh dear, I’m in a poem!
I had never believed to “the poet’s aura” before. I thought it was one of those things, you know. Then I met him, and changed my mind. The aura was there all right – luminous and palpable. It is not a literary myth, it’s a matter of greatness. And I feel so privileged to have had the chance to experience the greatness of this extraordinary man.
His death was a terrible loss – a loss that only his legacy of poetry can soften a little.