Poems don't work
on television unless you slap them around. You have to choose the bits of the poem that work with strong images and then lose the rest. To be true to them you have to be untrue to them. Thankfully Seamus understood this completely and allowed me to have my wicked way with his work.
that, because of duration, we had to drop many sequences from the film. For instance: Seamus was very amusing about the parodies of his work by poets like Billy Collins and Wendy Cope. His own favourite parody is a section in Peregrine Pryke's Pilgrimage through the London Literary World by Clive James which has the line - "these were the Belfast poets, all called Seamus."
The Blackbird of Glanmore
is my favourite Heaney poem. It is delicate and profound. I have read it many, many times and every time I see new things in it. I wanted to feature it in the film but I couldn't find a way of bringing it alive on screen. That may be one sign of its greatness.
is referred to in an early Heaney poem, Twice Shy. I love that fact because it places him bang in the middle of the sixties when he emerged with such startling impact. And of course Bardot is far removed from the rural imagery that everyone associates with a Heaney poem. To paraphrase Whitman: he is large, he contains multitudes.
Talking to Seamus Heaney
about poetry is like going for a swim in the ocean. You immerse yourself in the immensity of his knowledge about the art, you feel better for having done so, but you know there are depths where you will never reach.
The thing that surprised
me was how well the interview with Seamus and his wife Marie worked. I was worried that interviewing them together on a sofa might be a bit Oprah. But the quality of their conversation overcomes the contrivance. Marie Heaney is a wonderful personality in her own right and I think the film reveals that theirs has been a marriage of true minds.
The first time
I heard Seamus Heaney reading was in UCC where I studied English a thousand years ago. I went to a lot of readings then but I had never before come across a poet who read another poet's work alongside his own. He read Out, Out by Robert Frost.
Walking around Harvard
with Seamus Heaney, watching the people watching him, gave me a sense of what it would be like to stroll through Soweto with Nelson Mandela.
I had a panic
one day during the editing. I suddenly thought: "The whole film is about death, it will be so depressing, nobody will want to watch it." Then I realized that it is also about family, transcendence, memory and love.
when talking about a piece of work forget how collaborative the process of film-making is. On this project the Producer, Production Manager, Cameraman, Soundman, Editor, Researcher, Composer, Designer, Executive Producer all made considerable contributions. So here's to Clíona, EmmaJane, Andrew, Joe, Gráinne, Martha, Stephen, Briain and David. In other words: a film is not a poem.
I'm pleased that
I managed to sneak quite a lot of poetry into the film in a way that won't terrify poetry-phobes. I hope.
the last image of the film achieved with the camera gliding through a snow-covered road. Like many of the best things in any creative process it was an accident. We went to Wicklow on a sunny October day to shoot the landscape near the cottage to which Heaney moved in the seventies. We had a pub lunch in Ashford and when we came out the place was covered in snow. I suddenly thought I could use the snow images to illustrate the poem In Iowa which is set in a blizzard in that American state. During editing, we found a better use for it - to illustrate his closing meditation on the after-life.
I love it also because the snowy road through the forest has a strong Robert Frost feel to it. In the film there are mentions of Eliot, Auden, Yeats, Larkin and Kavanagh so it is apt that there is also a reference, however oblique, to the American poet with whom Heaney's work has most affinity.
Like all great writers
he notices everything.