Friday, September 4, 2009

Digging, a poem by Seamus Heaney.

Post 319 - My old college friend, Loman Conway, reminded me the other day that I‘ve neglected to feature Seamus Heaney in my poetry posts – and that’s indeed a significant omission. Robert Lowell called Heaney "the most important Irish poet since Yeats."
Heaney was born and grew up near Castledawson in County Derry, Northern Ireland and now divides his time between Dublin and Glanmore in County Wicklow. He was Professor of Poetry at Oxford and for many years taught at Harvard University. His writings, lectures and readings have made him one of the most popular and admired writers of our time. He’s a member of Aosdana, an association of people in Ireland who have achieved distinction in the arts. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995 "for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past."

One of the things that endears him to so many people is that he’s never lost touch with his South Derry roots. Heaney says, "If you have a strong first world and a strong set of relationships, then in some part of you, you’re always free, you can walk the world because you know where you belong, you have some place to come back to."

Digging by Seamus Heaney

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; as 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 could 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, digging down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mold, 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.

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