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The Library lunchtime lectures are now a regular occurrence at St John’s, designed to stimulate pupils’ intellectually and broaden their cultural horizons. This year’s programme opened on Wednesday 17 September with a talk by Mr Gary Wade on the poet Seamus Heaney. The event proved popular, to the point that even some recent leavers could be seen in the front row of the audience.
The seven poems discussed were chosen to give a flavour of Heaney’s life’s work. Through these the audience quickly learned to appreciate Heaney’s ability to convey an enchanted, even mystical, view of the world through observations of the most commonplace features of everyday scenes. Referred to by some as a ‘consecration of the ordinary’, this was aptly illustrated by ‘The Rain Stick’, which describes rain as it trickles through a cactus stalk.
It was particularly fitting that an introduction to the writings of an Irish poet should be delivered by Mr Wade, for as well as being a fellow Irishman, he was also a boy at St Columb’s, where Heaney himself was educated. His talk, therefore, was more than just a critical appraisal of the poet’s work. As well as this, he related the poems discussed to the events and landscapes that inspired them and interspersed his commentary with his own personal recollections of Ireland.
The discussion of the poems also highlighted aspects of the writer’s personality, of which Mr Wade had first-hand experience. He recounted welcoming Heaney to the home of his parents’ just nine years ago and how easily the speaker’s family warmed to the poet’s unassuming character. Pupils and staff alike were spellbound by what Mr Wade revealed, finding the talk as moving as it was instructive.
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