Every meeting I’ve ever had since I began full-time advocacy, I have brought with me a book of Seamus Heaney’s poems. I always think if you’re asking somebody for something it’s a good idea to give them something first. So I always gave them Seamus Heaney’s poems. This is from the pope to every president I have ever met. In this past week I gave Seamus’s book Electric Light to President Johnson Sirleaf in Liberia. She’s currently obsessed with the efforts to bring electricity to her people so she could not believe it.
Seamus has been with me on every journey I have taken, and there have been many times when a retreat into his words has kept me afloat. Most of our life in this kind of work is very concrete, full of facts, but we all have to seek redress from time to time in poetry. Seamus was where I went for that. He was the quietest storm that ever blew into town. As an activist, From the Republic of Conscience has been like a bible for me, something I return to and have returned to for as long as I can remember. Some of those phrases are like tattoos for me, worn very close to the heart.