Definition

One must make a distinction however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry, nor till the autocrats among us can be “literalists of the imagination”—above insolence and triviality and can present for inspection, imaginary gardens with real toads in them, shall we have it.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Toad's Favo(u)rite ~ Irish Lament

Forgive me for hopping in here a bit late today, Toads. I am seizing the opportunity to reflect on the life of Irish poet and Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney, who passed away last week at the age of  74. His last words in a text message to his wife were Noli Timere, 'Don't be afraid'. (Source)


Public Domain (Fair Use)


Well-known for his many collections of poetry, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995, the second Irish poet to do so since W.B. Yeats. One of his most famous works is a translation of the epic Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf into modern English. There are many informative articles available on-line about Heaney's life and contribution to English Literature, so I will not attempt to fill this space with more than I have already said. I would like to share with you one of my favourite Heaney poems.  Perhaps it is the Irish in me which has always been drawn to Heaney's love of the land and the soil, and his exploration of the father/son relationship has always struck me as heart-breakingly honest. With this in mind, I have chosen the poem Follower.  The poem is read in the clip below, and a discussion of the poem follows, for anyone who is interested in the nitty-gritty of his style and imagery.



20 comments:

hedgewitch said...

Thanks Kerry--I'm a latecomer to Heaney and his works, but like you, there's something that the Irish bring to words that I can't resist, (though if I have any Celtic blood it comes by way of the Vikings ;_) )something that instinctively knows the magic in language and lays it out, shining and sparkling, for us to take in and be nourished.

This is a simple poem, and yet full of that sort of being in the moment, being of the essence of what we are watching or doing, that brings such a profound and lasting connection--here between generations, between man and land, and reader and poet as well. (My Off The Shelf page has another one of his lovely poems, Personal Helicon, that I'd not previously read, if anyone wants a bit more of his words.)

Kerry O'Connor said...

Thanks, Hedge. I shall certainly take a look at your post.

Susan said...

Thank you for this loving presentation. I love the incident engaged in all of life's meaning as we age into reversals, as we get to the end of our furrow again and again to the end of our field! or poem.

Kerry O'Connor said...

Yes, Susan, that turning from one furrow to the next into old age, and then it is another's turn to pass away. Thank you for sharing your insights.

Ella said...

Wonderful choice Kerry!
Wow, I am blown away by the imagery of sailing and plowing on row by row.
I feel a Robert Frost vibe. I suppose it is the love of nature-the plowing. I am going to read more of his work. His voice is remarkable! Thank you for sharing him!

Do forgive me for blaming him for our Toad mystery~

Hannah said...

Thank you, Kerry for bringing us this fantastic Irish poet and your thoughts and background as well. :)

Kerry O'Connor said...

@ Ella, I also love that image - it is so visual and contains the energy of forward movement too!

@Hannah, I'm happy to know his poetry struck a chord with you today.

Other Mary said...

Thank you for the words of of Heaney today Kerry. It's beautifully crafted,and, and so touching. What a treasure we have lost.

Debi Swim said...

My senses were so touched by this - the lovely lilting Irish brogue and the small, frail looking little boy, the father working so hard yet having time and strength to ride his on his shoulders... thank you for sharing this. I'll not soon forget this loveliness.

Kay L. Davies said...

There is so much here, Kerry, from the child literally walking in his father's footsteps, to wanting to follow his father by learning to plow, all the way to his father's old age when roles are reversed and the ancient father stumbles behind his on.
I've seen this happen in my own family, not with ploughing per se, but the following, and the wanting, with the tired father carrying the son, then the tired son helping his father.
A slice of life brilliantly put into words.
K

Marian said...

thank you, Kerry. i've been really struck by his passing. also, it occurred to me that i was turned on to Seamus Heaney in college, and he has passed young at 74, so that means he was about my age now when i was reading him and he was influencing me. wow. cycles, indeed.

Susie Clevenger said...

I am so new to his work, but I find it brilliant. We have lost a treasure for sure.

manicddaily said...

Thank you, Kerry. I think what I like is that the work is so lyrical but also so literally down to earth. Thanks much. k.

Heaven said...

Well I am new to his work too so thanks for writing a feature on his work Kerry ~

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Oh my goodness what a turnaround at the following being done in this poem. Fantastic work! Thanks, Kerry.

Margaret said...

I own this version of Beowulf! Nice to know.

What a gorgeous poem (the accent is amazing) That little boy running after his father, falling in the sod, on his father's shoulders... oh and then, his aged father stumbling behind him... sigh (I had to wipe away a TEAR!) That rarely happens with me.

Appears this is another author I am going to have to add to my bursting bookcase of poetry. I am off to read this to my husband, as I think he will really like this one, can't help but see our little man following his dad all around.. Yes, this poem I have printed out, tacked it to my bulletin board...

Marcoantonio Arellano said...

Thank you Kerry for introducing him to me and reminding us of this treasure. Your choice, The Follower, is a wonderful intro to his clear and real style. Sort of like Irish food made of earth grown potatoes'. The romance of language the Irish way.

Kerry O'Connor said...

Reading all these thought-full comments has really made my day. Thanks to all who stopped by yesterday.

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

Oh, brilliant. Thank you.

Abin Chakraborty said...

I have loved his works...from the first anthology to the latest.A rare genius and an abiding source of endless inspiration.His words could spark magic.He is, like Yeats, an immortal author.