Seamus Heaney Bogland Essay

Seamus Heaney Bogland Essay-60
I rhyme To see myself, to set the darkness echoing. His poetry was a divine echo chamber, a place where he listened and watched, gathering what Frost called the “sound of sense” in a discrete and physical manner, amplifying his own voice by rhymes, working on countless linguistic and symbolic levels. I watched with fascination as Seamus dug into the Irish soil, as a poet, finding in the bog a perfect simulacrum of his own art.“Bogland” is one of the finest of these, a poem about the endless layers of Irish history gathered in a bog, in a poem, in the word itself – almost any word, which is a palimpsest, a story of erasures that underlie the current writing.

I rhyme To see myself, to set the darkness echoing. His poetry was a divine echo chamber, a place where he listened and watched, gathering what Frost called the “sound of sense” in a discrete and physical manner, amplifying his own voice by rhymes, working on countless linguistic and symbolic levels. I watched with fascination as Seamus dug into the Irish soil, as a poet, finding in the bog a perfect simulacrum of his own art.“Bogland” is one of the finest of these, a poem about the endless layers of Irish history gathered in a bog, in a poem, in the word itself – almost any word, which is a palimpsest, a story of erasures that underlie the current writing.

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One often heard him described as the successor to Yeats, and perhaps in Irish terms that makes sense.

But he seemed to me more like the successor to Robert Frost, a poet who heightened the common language of ordinary people, who drew on the resources of pastoral verse going back to the Greeks and Romans.

Poetry became, for him, what he called “a search for images and symbols adequate to our predicament”.

This last quotation comes from “Feeling into Words”, a lively essay in Preoccupations, his first of several collections of essays on poetry.

He confesses to being “neither internee nor informer”. His long and productive journey continued through half a century, with countless triumphs of language and sensibility, always compressed and brilliant, like a horseshoe hammered out on the anvil of his writing desk and dipped in water: an image given shape in “The Forge”, his fond recollection of an old blacksmith.

The collected poems constitute a diverse body of work that calls to the ear and lightens the spirit, asking one to take seriously the work of poetry, which is to listen to “the music of what happens”.

“Our unfenced country/ Is bog that keeps crusting/ Between the sights of the sun,” he wrote in that poem – a meditation on the complications of Irish history, where every layer “seems camped on before”, and a visualisation of his art, which involved “striking /Inwards and downwards”.

He described his poetic evolution in “Singing School” from North, a reflection on Irish history and its politics.

Their ways and means with language fuelled and propelled him into his own work, which involved a rich conversation with his favourite poets: Wordsworth, Frost and Hopkins, Donne and Herbert. He also loved Dante and the Beowulf poet (his translations of their poetry remain peerless – though I wish he’d done a whole Inferno).

The range of his poetic affections is evident in all his writing.

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