Thursday, September 12, 2013

Learning the World from Seamus Heaney

"There's a good yield, isn't there?"
As proud as if he were the land itself.
- from The Wife's Tale

The lough waters
Can petrify wood.
Old oars and posts
Over the years
Harden their grain
Incarcerate ghosts
Of sap and season.
- From Relic of Memory

Heaney's greatest strength was not his music, his way with phrases, his style. These were powerfully idiosyncratic to him. But his real shamanic gift was that he saw the world better than most of us do. The phrase "incarcerate ghosts of sap and season" envisions a natural process in spiritual terms, and makes the conflation of the two concrete.

And the way he makes clear that rural life eliminates the distinction between people and their soil is essential to understanding life outside of cities.

The poets I care about enable me to learn the world anew.

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