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tonyv

Seamus Heaney -- Irish Poet

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tonyv

Although the back of Seamus Heaney's 2006 collection District and Circle (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) declares that, "Seamus Heaney's first collection, Death of a Naturalist, appeared forty years ago," I myself have only recently become acquainted with his work. I posted a LINK to the first poem I read by him, "Clearances #5," in A Poem I Read Today. That poem, along with many of Heaney's poems in District and Circle, is (IMHO) a contemporary sonnet -- a fourteen-line poem written in (mostly) iambic pentameter. It contains some rhyme, more than the others from District and Circle that I will share here.

The first is from a sequence of five poems. The title of the five-poem series is the same as the book --

 

District and Circle

Tunes from a tin whistle underground
Curled up a corridor I'd be walking down
To where I knew I was always going to find
My watcher on the tiles, cap by his side,
His fingers perked, his two eyes eyeing me
In an unaccusing look I'd not avoid,
Or not just yet, since both were out to see
For ourselves.
                            As the music larked and capered
I'd trigger and untrigger a hot coin
Held at the ready, but now my gaze was lowered
For was our traffic not in recognition?
Accorded passage, I would re-pocket and nod,
And he, still eyeing me, would also nod.



There are four more sonnets in the sequence that describe experiences on the subway, or the underground. I wonder how old the narrator persona is in this sequence?

Here are two more sonnets from the same book:

 

In Iowa

In Iowa once, among the Mennonites
In a slathering blizzard, conveyed all afternoon
Through sleet-glit pelting hard against the windscreen
And a wiper's strong absolving flumps and flits,

I saw, abandoned in the open gap
Of a field where wilted corn stalks flagged the snow,
A mowing machine. Snow brimmed its iron seat,
Heaped each spoked wheel with a thick white brow,

And took the shine off oil in the black-toothed gears.
Verily I came forth from that wilderness
As one unbaptized who had known darkness
At the third hour and the veil in tatters.

In Iowa once. In the slush and rush and hiss
Not of parted but as of rising waters.

 

Polish Sleepers

Once they'd been block-built criss-cross and four-squared
We lived with them and breathed pure creosote
Until they were laid and landscaped in a kerb,
A moulded verge, half-skirting, half-stockade,
Soon fringed with hardy ground-cover and grass.
But as that bulwark bleached in sun and rain
And the washed gravel pathway showed no stain,
Under its parched riverbed
Flinch and crunch I imagined tarry pus
Accruing, bearing forward to the garden
Wafts of what conspired when I'd lie
Listening for the goods from Castledawson …
Each languid, clanking waggon,
And afterwards, rust, thistles, silence, sky.

 

Then, there is this delightful, short poem:

 

A Hagging Match

Axe-thumps outside
like wave-hits through
a night ferry:
                 -------you
whom I cleave to, hew to,
splitting firewood.

 

I find it intriguing that the back cover of District and Circle also states that, "Scenes from a childhood spent far from the horrors of World War II are colored by a strongly contemporary sense that 'Anything can happen....'" The book also contains some prose pieces.

Here is the Wikipedia link on SEAMUS HEANEY. Here is a link to the Beacons at Bealtaine, a poem delivered at the EU Enlargement Ceremony by Heaney. I hope others will also share what they know about this fascinating and very popular contemporary poet.


Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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Aleksandra

Tony, this is wonderful for introducing here for Heaney's life and work. The links what you shared are so useful too. He have so rich career and his poetry is very good and good qualified.

My experience what I have with meeting this poet is so good. I heard his poetry how it sounds on more languages. Also as a person, you can recognize from far away that he have art soul. And poetry spirit strikes from him.

 

I must look because I don't remember do I have photo with him. I mean by me and him. If I find I'm gonna post here in this topic.

 

Glad you post Seamus Heaney here in this thread.

 

Much enjoyed

 

Aleksandra


The poet is a liar who always speaks the truth - Jean Cocteau

History of Macedonia

 

 

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A. Baez

Tony, I just found this through the link you posted in David Parsley's "As One from the Snowfields." As David, I am highly impressed with "In Iowa"--as well as the other works here. One thing that particularly strikes me about several of these poems is how Heaney has inserted one or a few rhymes and/or half-rhymes into an otherwise unrhymed piece, and how well this works, even though some pedants would surely take him to task for this form-blending. This music always seems to come at exactly the right place. Heaney also has an uncanny knack for capturing the feel of something through the use of dense clusters of onomatopoetic words. "Through sleet-glit pelting hard against the windscreen/And a wiper's strong absolving flumps and flits," for example, had me inwardly crying "Yes--exactly!"--the rhythm as  well as the sound capture perfectly the very action described (and I love the internal "glit"/"flit" rhyme). In the third stanza, the entry of Biblical language and references takes this poem in a surprising, interesting direction, creating a viscerally-felt juxtaposition of restraint and elegance with the lawless Iowa scene described. And Heaney is so extraordinarily economical; in the opening line of his fourth stanza, he realizes he can get away with an incomplete sentence mirroring his opening phrase, even though the entire rest of the poem has consisted of complete sentences. 

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tonyv
7 hours ago, A. Baez said:

One thing that particularly strikes me about several of these poems is how Heaney has inserted one or a few rhymes and/or half-rhymes into an otherwise unrhymed piece, and how well this works, even though some pedants would surely take him to task for this form-blending. This music always seems to come at exactly the right place.

I find myself doing this, too. I even think I've seen it called lazy. But I guess I'm kind of a stickler like that when it comes to meter in that I don't like sloppy, half-assed meter unless there's a really good reason for it. And some people are just anti-rhyme. I'm neither pro-rhyme nor anti-rhyme. I see rhyme as just another tool for poets to use at their discretion.

7 hours ago, A. Baez said:

And Heaney is so extraordinarily economical; in the opening line of his fourth stanza, he realizes he can get away with an incomplete sentence mirroring his opening phrase, even though the entire rest of the poem has consisted of complete sentences.

A most excellent observation.

Tony


Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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A. Baez

That's wonderful that you've adopted the tendency to throw in a few rhymes in opportune places. Frankly, I think it's an almost instinctive human tendency, but one that in often suppressed by formal conventions. I don't see it as the least bit lazy in the way Heaney uses it (I still have to check out your work), but rather, as a very precisely targeted technique deployed to deliver a specific, very desirable effect. There's nothing about it that feels random to me; only the pure intellect might perceive it that way. But there is a logic that goes deeper than pure intellect--all we have to do is consider music to demonstrate that. I agree, rhyme is just a tool that can be used to excellent or disastrous effect, or anything in between. And yes, now that I understand reasonable principles of meter use in poetry, random meter in a piece that seems to be vaguely striving for meter seems undisciplined.

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tonyv
On 11/11/2019 at 7:55 PM, A. Baez said:

That's wonderful that you've adopted the tendency to throw in a few rhymes in opportune places.

I wouldn't say I've adopted the tendency, rather it just kind of happens, and when it does, I just let it (if I like it). I don't work it one way or another.

On 11/11/2019 at 7:55 PM, A. Baez said:

Frankly, I think it's an almost instinctive human tendency ...

I agree. When it happens with me, I'm not trying to do it.

On 11/11/2019 at 7:55 PM, A. Baez said:

... I don't see it as the least bit lazy in the way Heaney uses ...

I agree. 

On 11/11/2019 at 7:55 PM, A. Baez said:

... but rather, as a very precisely targeted technique deployed to deliver a specific, very desirable effect.

That I wouldn't know (whether it's targeted), but the effect is definitely there. And what you go on to say here:

On 11/11/2019 at 7:55 PM, A. Baez said:

There's nothing about it that feels random to me; only the pure intellect might perceive it that way. But there is a logic that goes deeper than pure intellect--all we have to do is consider music to demonstrate that.

-- expresses the magic (for lack of a better word) of creativity, the artistic process, and art as well as it has ever been said.

Tony


Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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A. Baez

All right--so maybe you have not "adopted" this effect so much as simply "allowed it to stay." 😉 And who knows, maybe Heaney did the same! But even making oneself hospitable toward such elements is the first step toward intentionality, and I think the bounds between the two become blurrier the more one does exercise such a conscious embrace. It sounds like we're coming from a very similar place in terms of the philosophy of poetry and art. I'm so happy to find another who seeks to guard the wind-whipped taper of art's high mysteries!

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