Friday, September 6, 2013

Seamus Heaney

This great and wonderful poet* died last week. The news caused me to return to some of my favourite poems of his. I was going to share some with my Saturday morning students, but they are mostly primary-school kids, and the level of language and the very Irish contexts seemed too difficult. Perhaps I should have read some anyway - poetry has a way of reaching the heart, bypassing word-for-word understanding!

In one of his most well-known poems, "Digging", Heaney is sitting writing while listening to his elderly father digging in the garden outside his window. His father worked at digging potatoes and cutting turf when Heaney was a boy. In the closing verses, he admires his father's skill, and affirms his own, very different one:

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.

Try some "digging" of your own: capture a childhood memory on paper, or reaffirm one of your skills...If you've no-one else to tell it to, tell me!

*I hate it when I'm confronted with a name whose pronounciation I'm unsure of: his name is "Shame-us Hee-nee".

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