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17 August 2015

Seamus Heaney's poem for brother with epilepsy

As the headstone of poet Seamus Heaney is unveiled, his brother Hugh has spoken fondly about a poem Seamus wrote for him about his epilepsy.

The simple headstone, erected in Bellaghy, Northern Ireland just before the second anniversary of the poet's death, bears an inscription from Seamus' poem The Gravel Walks, part of The Spirit Level collection.

But it is Keeping Going, another poem from the same collection, that Hugh recalls with great fondness, as his brother dedicated it to him and his struggle with epilepsy.

Hugh told the BBC: 'Seamus wrote a lovely poem about myself which I'm very proud of and (it) is very moving.

'I suffer from epilepsy and Seamus wrote a poem for me in The Spirit Level called Keeping Going, I was at the launch of the book when he said this is a poem for Hugh. That was lovely and I'm very proud.'

The moving poem includes the lines:

I see you at the end of your tether sometimes,
In the milking parlour, holding yourself up
Between two cows until your turn goes past,
Then coming to in the smell of dung again
And wondering, is this all? As it was
In the beginning, is now and shall be?
Then rubbing your eyes and seeing our old brush
Up on the byre door, and keeping going.

You can read the full poem here.

Many of our supporters use poetry to express  their epilepsy and to explain what it feels like to have a seizure. You can read a selection of poet Richard Alexander's Complex partial poems in this extract from our magazine Epilepsy Review. If you would like to submit any poems to Epilepsy Society, please email

Epilepsy Review carries features about the latest research into epilepsy, self-management and personal stories of other people with the condition. Find out more.