Heaney on Hughes

Seamus Heaney looked up and let out a breath upon which the words "oh no" quietly travelled.

What's up? I asked the poet. He nodded over my shoulder towards the source of his discomfort. I turned round.

And there grinning back at me was a photograph of Seamus Heaney, grey-haired and twinkly-eyed.

As informal portraits go, I thought it rather good. But the modest Irishman took no pleasure from seeing his image so prominently displayed.

He might have expected such a confrontation. After all we were in the Seamus Heaney Library at the Bloomsbury Hotel in London to discuss his friend and fellow poet, Ted Hughes.

Within a few hours Heaney would be giving the address at a service in the south transept of Westminster Abbey (otherwise known as Poets Corner), to celebrate the unveiling of a memorial stone dedicated to Ted Hughes.

But now, half an hour before lunch, he was relaxed and happy to discuss Hughes's work and their friendship. The two great poets shared much in common, not least drawing on nature for inspiration: and each other.

Seamus Heaney sums up his feelings for his fellow poet in his fascinating interview in which he says that the ex Poet Laureate "meant everything" to him.