Friday, August 30, 2013

Seamus Heaney

I came online to post some poetry here only to see the sad news that Seamus Heaney had passed away aged 74.  Considered the best Irish poet since W. B. Yeats and a strong feature on Literature syllabuses up and down the country Heaney won the 1995 Nobel Prize and took a moment to consider the jump between writing a few lines and winning a Nobel Prize.  

'I credit poetry both for being itself and for being a help, for making possible a fluid relationship...between the child gazing at the word "Stockholm" on the face of the radio dial and the man facing the faces that he meets at this most privileged moment.'

There is something unique, I feel, about not only the death of a poet but also a poet who features so heavily in children's education.  His name will be one which people will recognise and remember from their school days - his poetry will sit unassumingly on their bookshelves, and today will be read out of respect for both his career and for their old English teacher who urged them to enjoy poetry independently of English lessons. 

// Kate Mortmain

B L A C K B E R R Y  P I C K I N G 

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
for a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
sent us out with milk-cans, pea-tins, jam-pots
where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
we trekked and picked until the cans were full,
until the tinkling bottom had been covered
with green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
with thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
the fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair
that all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.

S E A M U S  H E A N E Y

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