Irish Times interviews Ellen Mandel about Seamus Heaney

The Irish Times - Friday, September 3, 2010 What Heaney means to me ELLEN MANDEL Jazz pianist and theatre composer “There’s one poem at the moment I love, love, love: I set it to music, because it just pulled me right in. It’s from Clearances , and starts: ‘When all the others were away at mass. . .’ He describes a Sunday morning when everybody else is out of the house. He’s there with his mother, peeling potatoes. They sit at a table, doing this work, and kind of dreaming. It’s very, very quiet: there’s just the little ‘plop’ of the peeled potatoes as they drop into the cold water, one by one. “Then it switches to the parish priest at his mother’s bedside, going hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying. Some people are listening and some are responding, but the poet goes back in his memory to the two of them peeling potatoes, and the last line is: ‘Never closer the whole rest of our lives.’ In my own life, when my mom was ailing, I would sit with her at her little kitchen table – and then when she really was not able to handle her accounts and bills, her younger brother, my uncle, would sit with me at the table, doing that work for her. I became very close with my uncle because of that, so when I saw that poem I thought of it immediately.”

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