Sunday, September 1, 2013

2013.09.01 Tribute To a Poet and Poetry

Seamus Heaney, Nobel Laureate poet, Irishman, Dublin resident who also taught at Harvard, devoted dad of three and husband of one wife, ebullient raconteur, imbiber, lover of the land, user of plain-talk words that make sense of life and don’t rhyme but have rhythm,  just died at 74— my age.

The purpose of poetry, as I see it, being a priest, is to consecrate what is,—simple things like bread and wine, small children, your own fruitless malaise, or the latest obit. You can do it with hand gestures, a smile for no reason, humor, deep listening, a kiss, a poem, like this one by Heaney:


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.