DEEP regret and sadness on the news of the death last week of poet Seamus Hogan enveloped all who had the privilege of coming in contact with this extraordinary but humble man. Seamus, who was suddenly struck down with illness in the autumn of 2017, passed away peacefully at the early age of 58 in the presence of his family at Cork University Hospital.
Over the years, Ballydehob has been a haven for artists of all classifications, but unlike many others, Seamus, on arrival here some years ago, embraced the whole community rather than just other literary and artistic acquaintances.
While equally at home sipping champagne in a foreign embassy or having a pint in Ina Daly’s Bar, just like his writings, he always remained deeply rooted in his rural upbringing in his native Toomevara, Co Tipperary: ‘It must have been this month of the year, November, because I wore boots of rubber and the cows wore boots of mud.’
A graduate of University College Dublin, he once lived in the iconic Paris bookshop, Shakespeare & Co. ‘Interweavings’, Dublin - Paris 1978 - 1988, ‘New Poems’ 1993 and ‘Grey Smoke Against A Grey Sky’ Spring 2017 were his major collections of published poems.
However, the publication which got, perhaps, the greatest publicity was the collegial ‘Rilke Translations,’ published in May 2015 by Eblana Press and translated from German by Seamus and two other local residents, Ailin Becker and Sean O’Mahony. Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) was a Bohemian Austrian poet and novelist, born in Prague and ‘widely recognised as one of the most lyrically-intense German language poets,’ writing in both verse and highly-lyrical prose.
The translations drew international acclaim and readings from the book were in high demand on arts programmes and events here and abroad. In 2016, a short film telling the story of ‘Rilke Translations’ was screened at the Fastnet Film Festival. With Seamus front and centre in the video, it captures some of the magic of living in West Cork and Ballydehob in particular. His latest project before becoming ill was a further indication of his attachment to everyday life in Ballydehob. He had set about researching the story of the building of the Community Hall in the 1970s and its subsequent part in the life of the village.
He is survived by his brothers, sisters, his extended family, Damaris, Trish and a wide circle of friends. On Saturday last, Seamus’ cremation service took place at the Island Crematorium, Rocky Island, Ringaskiddy.
His picture, part of People of the Atlantic Project, strikingly still dominates the window of O’Keeffe’s-Hickey’s shop window with the following poem, chosen by Seamus, accompanying the photograph:
Paris Nuit 2016
A blackbird drops songs
onto the surface of night
note by note. Slowly,
stave by stave
Cinnte, ní bheidh a leitheid ann arís.