Connection with Authors I Enjoy
Standing in front of my desk, I looked at the different books. Clearly, I am an eclectic reader but my passion lies with poetry. Poetry for me is excising our inner demons and every poet has a signature style. I love entering a poet’s domain. I study initially what they rhymed or didn’t. How did they use alliteration?
I lingered with Seamus Heaney this morning. His rhymes are not smooth at all but they work well (dungarees and rosaries, whops and footsteps, joys and tallboys). There are the typical ones like (dose and rose) too. I enjoy reading all kinds of rhymes because some are smooth as glass and others are clunky as heels on a hardwood floor. What matters most is the minute detail that a poet uses to create his/her work. Heaney to me is down to earth with his plainly spoken words that give the reader an extraordinary view of everyday existence. There are no illusions with Heaney. He challenges demons with delightful anecdotes.
Poetry contributor William Logan comments, “The younger Heaney wrote like a man possessed by demons, even when those demons were very literary demons; the older Heaney seems to wonder, bemusedly, what sort of demon he has become himself.” [i] I feel like I’m battling demons in my writing all the time, I think we all do.
This is one of my favorites of Heaney’s poems.[ii]
Death of a Naturalist
BY SEAMUS HEANEY
All year the flax-dam festered in the heart
Of the townland; green and heavy headed
Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods.
Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun.
Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles
Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell.
There were dragonflies, spotted butterflies,
But best of all was the warm thick slobber
Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water
In the shade of the banks. Here, every spring
I would fill jampotfuls of the jellied
Specks to range on window sills at home,
On shelves at school, and wait and watch until
The fattening dots burst, into nimble
Swimming tadpoles. Miss Walls would tell us how
The daddy frog was called a bullfrog
And how he croaked and how the mammy frog
Laid hundreds of little eggs and this was
Frogspawn. You could tell the weather by frogs too
For they were yellow in the sun and brown
Then one hot day when fields were rank
With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs
Invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hedges
To a coarse croaking that I had not heard
Before. The air was thick with a bass chorus.
Right down the dam gross bellied frogs were cocked
On sods; their loose necks pulsed like sails. Some hopped:
The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some sat
Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting.
I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings
Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew
That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.
Seamus Heaney, “Death of a Naturalist” from Opened Ground: Selected poems 1966-1996. Copyright © 1999
[ii] Seamus Heaney, “Death of a Naturalist” from Opened Ground: Selected poems 1966-1996. Copyright © 1999