Sunday 28 September 2008

Seamus Heaney

A friend - a fellow student - lent me her copy of Seamus Heaney's New selected poems, 1966-1987 (1990, Faber and Faber). This cross-fertilisation is one of the ways in which the class expands one's horizons. Heaney is a pleasure, and a challenge - so many new words.

We talked in class recently about the fact that we tend to write re-using the same words, without being aware of it, one person uses 'gonna', as in 'I'm gonna do...', and Hinemoana told us of a poet who often has 'teeth' in her poems. Most of us would need friends to point out these repetitions.

Seamus Heaney tends to include mud in what he writes, and he has a hundred words to describe its consistency, colour and the sound it can make...I am sure that he is very conscious of doing this.

The first poem is the one that has affected me most so far, so powerful. It is called Digging , it describes his father and his grandfather digging, and how he (Seamus) digs with his pen. The first stanza in that poem has a nice little trick in it, the pen "...snug as a gun".

Read Bill Manhire's Hotel Emergencies last night to friends over dinner, as an example of modern poetry. It is such a pleasing poem. Another favourite is Stevie Smith's Oh Pug!.
There was still someone who pointed out, It does not rhyme, and, Is that poetry, then?

Hinemoana, if you read this: There's a wonderful poem about a dog! Or it might be - really - about something else - anxiety, maybe, the way it arrives and attaches itself randomly to situations ? It reminds me of the on-going competition for a sonnet about Wellington: it seems impossible to write about Wellington without sounding like a gushy travel guide. The only way might be to write ostensibly about Wellington, while underneath it is about something else.

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