Heaney and haiku

Some years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Seamus Heaney greatly appreciated the Japanese-style poetry form, haiku, and even wrote several himself. After the tragic news of his death last September, I submitted a tribute haiku to the ‘Seamus Heaney – In Memorium’ website, inspired by the great poet’s poem ‘Digging’. It was published on 5th September.

I decided to combine the haiku with a detail from one of my paintings of a cottage in the Mourne Mountains to produce a haiga (haiku with artwork)


The ‘turf’ haiku was also published on Chen-ou Liu’s ‘NeverEnding Story’, a bilingual haiku and tanka site where he translates poetry into traditional and contemporary Chinese.

The following haiku, ‘Ulster hedgerow’, is also featured on Chen-ou’s site.

Ulster hedgerow
the steady click
of golf balls


‘Ulster hedgerow’ was a tribute to the following haiku by Heaney. I love how he compares the sound of the army patrol’s walkie-talkies to birds squawking in the hedges of Ulster:

Springtime in Ulster:
aerials in hedges, squawk
of walkie-talkies

Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney, 2008

‘Springtime in Ulster’ came back to me during a residential writing weekend in the countryside near the town of Banbridge, here in Northern Ireland. One of the group pointed out the continuous sound of golf balls being hit on a nearby course and it struck me how this contrasted with the sound described in the hedges of Heaney’s haiku, written during The Troubles.

Chen-ou Liu has written an interesting article on Heaney’s thoughts about how this Japanese poetry form may have influenced Western literature, with a subsequent online discussion.

Anatoly Kudryavitsky , editor of the Irish Haiku Society’s Shamrock Journal, has also written an informative article about the development of haiku in Ireland. This piece was first published in Bamboo Dreams, an Anthology of Haiku Poetry from Ireland. Doghouse Books, 2012. I was honoured to have seven of my haiku accepted for this first national collection of haiku from Ireland.

About seaviewwarrenpoint

I am a writer, poetry facilitator and artist from Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland. My blog is https://seaviewwarrenpoint.wordpress.com/ Twitter @MarionSClarke
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5 Responses to Heaney and haiku

  1. Liz Young says:

    Congratulations on having your haiku published. I bought a book of Heaney’s poems last year – the first time I ‘met’ him – and have been enjoying slowly working my way through them.

  2. Thank you, Liz.

    Have you read Heaney’s ‘Mid-term Break’ – that one made me cry!


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