Linda Opyr began her tribute to Seamus Heaney with the story of her naming her new dog after the recently deceased Seamus Heaney, the Noble Prize Laureate in Literature in 1995, a native of Derry. Dr. Linda Opyr presented her tribute to Heaney at the October 16 meeting of the Irish Cultural Society at the Garden City Library.
A poet herself and Poet Laureate of Nassau County from 2011-2013, Dr. Opyr read with power and feeling ten of her favorite poems by Seamus Heaney. Before reading the poems, she read from Heaney’s acceptance speech at the Stockholm Noble Awards Ceremony. Linda Opyr’s reading of the prose of the acceptance speech elevated the prose to the music and rhythms of poetry. This reading prepared the audience of 30 for the eloquence and passion of her reading of “Digging,” “Blackberry Picking,” “Mid Term Break” and seven other poems by Heaney. One audience member thanked Dr. Opyr for helping him to discover Heaney’s treatment of his father as a wise and loving man. It reminded him of other wonderful fathers in the writings of author Tom Phelan and poet John Brennan. Seamus the pup carries a grand name, and the Irish people carry with pride that another native son has been recognized as a literary giant.
Linda Opyr also pointed out that while on a trip to Ireland she found Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf as number one on the best seller list. Only in Ireland! She closed her tribute to Seamus Heaney by reading Heaney’s translation of the burial of Beowulf.
By popular demand, Linda Opyr read a selection from her own poems. The audience could relate to the local settings and the personal emotions in her poems, such as the loss of a brother and sister. Dr. Opyr closed her evening of poetry with the reading of the poem she was commissioned to write for the 50th anniversary of Sagamore Hill’s designation as a National Park by President John F. Kennedy. Entitled “Men of Vision: for Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and John Fitzgerald Kennedy”, the poem reminds its reader that we are trustees of this land and that we are fortunate to have had men of vision “who keep the majesty of our land – this great and beautiful land – forever before us.”