Seamus Heaney is another highly regarded and well-known poet the world over and hails from Ireland. Specifically, he was born in Castledawson, County Derry, Northern Ireland in 1939 on April 13th. He has written a plethora of poetry books and has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. This information comes from Poets.org and there is, as always, the link below you can use to find out more about him.
His book of poems titled District and Circle was published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux in 2006. I’ve seen reviews about this book on many web pages but finally got hold of it myself in the library. First, let me tell you that he is another poet that I’ve had some trouble “getting into” over the past few years, for whatever reason. When I’d see his books of poems in stores I’d flip through them stopping at various poems and just wasn’t as interested in them as other poets I’d end up flipping through. I think, for me anyway, you have to bring his poems home and read them. I could not tell you why, but I took this book home and I was finally able to really read his words and let them sink in without distractions of background noise or people scooting around me on their way to, say, the Gardening books section.
Enough about all that, let’s move on to Seamus Heaney’s poems!
The first poem to grab my attention is titled “The Turnip-Snedder” dedicated to Hughie O’Donahue. I enjoyed it because it took an otherwise predictable process into something that had a sinister tone at the end. The lines toward the beginning read “it dug its heels in among wooden tubs/and troughs of slops,/hotter than body heat/in summertime, cold in winter…” This seems to be the basic description of the Turnip-Snedder but then towards the end the lines turn darker “as the handle turned/and turnip-heads were let fall and fed/…as it dropped its raw sliced mess,/bucketful by glistering bucketful.” I picture it being similar to the character Sweeney Todd with that last line myself, which brought a wry smile to my face. What a wonderful way to create a normal process that is perhaps seen as boring and turn it into something far more interesting, don’t you think?
Another poem that grabs my attention is “Anything Can Happen” with a note “after Horace, Odes, I, 34.” Now I’ll admit I don’t know the reference, but the poem nonetheless is beautiful in its eloquence. It’s difficult not to include the entirety of the poem, but I will lend you some of the lines: “You know how Jupiter/Will mostly wait for clouds to gather head/Before he hurls the lightning?” Mr. Heaney goes on to describe how Jupiter shakes the ground and water, leaving nothing untouched. “Stropped-beak Fortune/Swoops, making the air gasp, tearing the crest off one,” which are lines that I love reading aloud, especially making the air gasp. You can almost picture the creature, Fortune, being an almost violent shaker of the world. Towards the end, “Ground gives. The heaven’s weight/Lifts up off Atlas like a kettle-lid…” The imagery in this poem is subtle enough that I read it again to absorb more of it. The way his stanzas flow in this particular poem held me to the end. I ended up going back for more to absorb it more deeply. I always think that any poet who can make me repeat reading the entire poem is a success. If any of you know the reference to Horace above, please enlighten me as I am unfamiliar at this point. It would certainly make the poem that much more meaningful to myself and anyone who reads it.
Thanks for stopping in to read about Seamus Heaney, please use the link below to find out more about him.
PS I will be out of town at a conference for the next three days, so I hope you will come again on Monday when I return to my regularly scheduled blogging on June 2nd…