Tag Archives: Seamus Heaney

“We still believe what we hear.”

For this month’s Music poem, I point you to Seamus Heaney’s “The Singer’s House

Like all great Heaney poems, and especially appropriate for a poem engaging with music, it is delicious to read/hear aloud. The give and take of the alliterative/echoing sounds, “a hint of the clip of the pick / in your winnowing climb and attack” to “Raise it again, man. We still believe what we hear” —oh, delicious. And the salt imagery builds more the more you read it. (There are a million more things to say about how this poem is built from a form and structure perspective which I might come back to in future, but this’ll just be a short post this month.)

In an interview in the Paris Review the late Heaney says this poem is about “the poet’s and the poem’s right to a tune in spite of the tunelessness of the world around them” and has more to say about the situations from which it arose, and of course there’s information about Carrickfergus and its salt mines and Gweebarra you can find online worth poking about in, but, as with all the best poems, that’s all not strictly necessary for an enjoyable first reading.





Death of a Naturalist & The Skunk

For this month’s animal poems post, it is with great pleasure I direct your attention to two by the late, great Seamus Heaney.

Death of a Naturalist” is one of those poems you pretty much just have to call perfect. It’s evocative, its language is wonderful and trips off the tongue, its images are vibrant, the line breaks thrill with their little tensions, the combination of sentimental nostalgia and gross realism delights — you know, perfect.  The love of words underlying it all, and the personality that comes through, the humor and respect for the place and time under discussion. I love especially the words, love saying out loud lines like “I would fill jampots full of the jellied / Specks to range on the window-sills at home” and “All the year the flax-dam festered in the heart / Of the townland; green and heavy headed” and oh I could go on. Continue reading

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