Friday, August 30, 2013

Seamus Heaney, RIP

One of my favorite poets, Seamus Heaney, passed away this morning. He was just 74.

When people ask me my favorite "serious" poets, Heaney was always one of the first I mentioned (Robert Frost always being first, though). Frost, Heaney, Emily Dickinson, Yehuda Amichai, and Pablo Neruda are generally my top five.

Raised an Irish Catholic (sadly, I understand he fell away from practicing the faith, though it did color his writing) he won multiple awards, including the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995.   

So many wonderful poems. Here's a favorite:


Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.

But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

And given my Scottish independence streak, I love that he turned down the offer to become Britain's poet laureate - he was Irish! - and then there is this little snippet of his:

Be advised my passport's green.
No glass of ours was ever raised
to toast the Queen.

Since my senior English class is British Literature based, I plan to sneak in a few of his poems.

May he rest in peace.

Pax et bonum

1 comment:

kam said...

Nice post. Liked him back in the day. Thanks for sharing.