November 7, 2002
4:42 AM   Subscribe

"I will feel lost,
Unhappy and at home."
A few of Seamus Heaney's poems.
posted by hama7 (19 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My other favorite Irish poet...

you were flaxen-haired,
undernourished, and your
tar-black face was beautiful.

(from "Punishment")

It is Seamus Heaney's fault that I stole a book from a library (I did pay them for it, though). P.V. Glob's The Bog People (there are some pictures here), which was the inspiration for the poems Heaney wrote about the bog people. The Windeby Girl is the subject of "Punishment".
posted by eilatan at 4:54 AM on November 7, 2002

There once was a man from Nantucket...
posted by hama7 at 5:48 AM on November 7, 2002

Damn, I thought that was some self-obsessed 14 year-old girl's blog entry.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:52 AM on November 7, 2002

I'm with eilatan on this one - Heaney is, just after Yeats, my favourite poet. 'Digging' always makes me feel a bit teary-eyed, as it unfailingly reminds me of cutting turf with my father and grandfather in the sunshine in a local bog when I was young. My favourite, though, is probably 'Mid-term Break' - it's bleak, but captures the feelings brought about by a death in the family in the unromantic yet beautifully poetic style of which Heaney is the master. His translation of 'Beowulf' is tough going at times, but hugely rewarding and is to be commended.

Thanks, Hama!

That's why I've always loved his stuff - I love his ability to reduce universal images and emotions to a deeply personal level.
posted by Doozer at 5:53 AM on November 7, 2002

Next thing you know, someone is going to start screaming, "PoemFilter".
posted by mischief at 5:55 AM on November 7, 2002

When one of his first poems was published, a reviewer called it 'A long, disappointing poem... about a frog.'
posted by steef at 6:03 AM on November 7, 2002

'A long, disappointing poem... about a frog.'

steef, that is hilarious, and is going in my Heaney file.
I have just about all of his books at home, and I'm dying wishing I had a couple here at work to post a favorite, maybe from Field Work or Station Island, or from his translation of Sweeney Astray.

I'll be the first to admit here, though, that sometimes some of Heaney's deep, rich classical and literary allusions go straight over my head (at least until I get out some reference materials).
posted by Shane at 6:14 AM on November 7, 2002

I had to study most of the major 20th century poets in school, as well as Yeats. It's required for English literature classes, which are themselves compulsory to pass out of school.

I recommend the words of Patrick Kavanagh, if you want some really interesting Irish poetry. Heaney is great, but Kavanagh is my favourite, if a little depressing sometimes.
posted by tomcosgrave at 7:26 AM on November 7, 2002

beleive it or not, mischief, someone actually has.
posted by quonsar at 8:13 AM on November 7, 2002

He's OK, but he's no Ewan McTeagle.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:29 AM on November 7, 2002

Good stuff, hama7.

I really like this too :-
The Deserted Village
by Oliver Goldsmith, comprehensively annotated by hyperlink.
posted by plep at 12:20 PM on November 7, 2002

I also wanted to link some of Norman Dubie's work, but there doesn't seem to be much of it around.
posted by hama7 at 2:53 PM on November 7, 2002

Wow, you never know what's going to surprise you on Metafilter. Seamus Heaney has long been my favorite poet. I was glad to see him get the Nobel Prize. One that has stuck with me over the years and I never tire or re-reading is Personal Helicon.
posted by tdstone at 5:47 PM on November 7, 2002

Let me commend to you all his Beowulf translation. Bloody good stuff, in more ways than one. I think the Beeb did a radio version - I caught a snatch on NZ National Radio in the car one day. Unexpected Beowulf is not good for my driving.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:11 AM on November 8, 2002

Mmm...I've never been a huge Heaney fan, but I loved "Personal Helicon" and "Death of a Naturalist." He's so very good at capturing the simultaneous fascination and revulsion of mucky, gooey, mysterious, alive earth. The great slime kings, indeed.
posted by hippugeek at 1:06 AM on November 8, 2002

Heaney used to totally rock my world; Seeing Things is still probably my favourite ever volume of poetry with my favourite ever lines ("All afternoon, heat wavered on the steps, / And the air we stood up to our eyes in wavered / Like the zig-zag hieroglyph for life itself.").

After having studied him to death I've transferred affections away slightly to more mandarin and playful poets (Muldoon, Hill) but he's still the daddy and his place as one of the greats is fixed in stone.

Incidentally f you only know Heaney through his early Death Of A Naturalist "mucky, gooey" stuff, he's moved away from that (what Muldoon mocked as "Dr Heaney now walks on air") to a poetics based more around language, space and light.

Now that my Heaney juices are flowing again, here's a poem from a sequence called Lightenings in Seeing Things:

And lightenings? One meaning of that
Beyond the usual sense of alleviation,
Illumination, and so on, is this:

A phenomenal instant when the spirit flares
With pure exhilaration before death -
The good thief in us harking to the promise!

So paint him on Christ’s right hand, on a promontory
Scanning empty space, so body-racked he seems
Untranslatable in the bliss

Ached for at the moon-rim of his forehead,
By nail-craters on the dark side of his brain:
This day though shalt be with Me in Paradise.
posted by Hartster at 7:09 AM on November 8, 2002

Hartster: Thanks for bringing up Paul Muldoon, one of my favorites too. Here's "Hay":

This much I know. Just as I'm about to make that right turn
off Province Line Road
I meet another beat-up Volvo
carrying a load

of hay. (More accurately, a bale of lucerne
on the roof rack,
a bale of lucerne or fescue or alfalfa.)
My hands are raw. I'm itching to cut the twine, to unpack

that hay accordion, that hay concertina.
It must be ten o'clock. There's still enough light
(not least from the glow

of the bales themselves) for a body to ascertain
that when one bursts, as now, something takes flight
from those hot and heavy box pleats. This much, at least, I know.

Here's the simple and profound "Tract":
I cleared the lands about my cabin, all
that came within range of a musket ball.
And here's a good review of the book they're both from.
posted by languagehat at 8:14 AM on November 8, 2002

And while we're on Irish poetry, here's a fine John Montague poem:
King & Queen

Jagged head
of warrior, bird
of prey, surveying space

side by side
they squat, the pale
deities of this place

giant arms
slant to the calm
of lap, kneebone;

blunt fingers
splay to caress
a rain-hollowed stone

towards which
the landscape of five parishes
tends, band after band

of terminal,
peewit haunted,
cropless bogland.

posted by languagehat at 12:25 PM on November 8, 2002

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