Monday, January 15, 2007

District and Circle

Irelands greatest living poet Seamus Heaney has won the TS Elliot award for poetry for his latest collection, District and Circle, which draws on his travels to work on the London Underground in his younger days.The prize was presented by TS Eliot's widow, Valerie Eliot, at a ceremony in central London.Heaney's work was described by the judges as "exhilarating".
The TS Eliot Prize for Poetry is organised by the Poetry Book Society, which was founded by Eliot in 1953 to develop and maintain poetry reading in the UK.

I remember being introduced to Heaney at school and the poem which I started with has remained to this day my favourite. A changing of the guard from old ireland to the new ireland - a new way of digging for a living , nay maybe even to survive. Anyway I'll be raising a glass to Seamus tonight - ok so he's already got a Nobel prize but still well done.


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.

Seamus Heaney



mister tumnus said...

'the curt cuts of an edge through living roots awaken in my head'. i love this poem. it is the first one i 'do' with students when we we come to heaney. i love his sense of inferiority in this poem, 'i've no spade to follow men like them', and yet we are so indebted to heaney for doing what he was created for. a lesson for us all perhaps.

The Father said...

amen sister

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

tis beautiful - i particularly like the idea of digging with pens......

just got your text - will try and join my irish family, i promise

you are missed