Friday, August 30, 2013

Irish Poet Seamus Heaney Dies


Heaney died at 74.  He was a great and natural poet, just the kind of poet you want to read, a man of wisdom and beautiful words.

Here's one of my favorite poems by him.  It's called "Digging." 

Between my finger and my thumb   
The squat pen rests; 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 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, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, 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, "Digging" from Death of a Naturalist. Copyright 1966 by Seamus Heaney. Reprinted with the permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC. 
To read more of his poems, just click here: Poems

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Old Poems

I've been going through all those old poems of mine trying to patch together a new book of old poems. The poems go back 20-30 years and some are okay and some are so dreadful that no muse can fix them, and I wonder what I'm going to do with these. I know what will happen to the good ones. I'll put them in the book.

But the bad ones? 

What do you do with embarrassing poems? 

It reminds me of a poem I wrote a while ago. 

It was about Whitman's final Death Bed Edition of Leaves of Grass and how some critics think he put too many of the bad poems into it.

Anyway, here's the poem.

It's called "Please Talk About Me When I'm Gone."  -- I'm not sure I'll include it in the book. 

Please Talk about Me When I’m Gone

Really, I think we can't think about good
and bad poems when we think about
our life's work. You look at Whitman’s Death-
bed Edition of Leaves of Grass--98% garbage—
Weeds of Grass--but nonetheless it's all fine.

Likewise, William Carlos Williams.
Did we really need so much of Patterson?
Or how about Ginsberg? Please, no more “Howls”!
Who would say such a thing? We all agree--
There it all is, and there it all should be.
Let’s not quibble. Let's just include it all.

I have poems in my unpublished collection,
"Idiot's Guide to John Guzlowski,"
that--in all modesty--are abominations.
If Moses had read them, he would’ve written
a commandment against them, maybe even two.

Really. So let's not think about being too critical.
Let's let future generations of literary critics
and readers, if there are any, sort all that out.
I mean, there must have been some real reason
Williams asked forgiveness for writing about
the icebox and eating those delicious plums.
How sweet and cold could they have been?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Welcome to Reality

(photo from the blog--world of fallen angels)

Friday, August 02, 2013

Friday Poem: Our Daughter is Outside Playing

Friday Poem: Here's a poem I wrote one spring long ago when we were living in Charleston, Il, and the weather was really bad. 

Our Daughter Lillian is Outside Playing

In the quiet space of the dining room
My wife and I lay out the place settings

The forks beside the Wedgwood plates,
The spoons and knives in their places.

A napkin in her hand, she pauses
And tells me again how her mother

Would starch and iron the squares of cotton
Wash the plates by hand and again by machine.

I smile, nod my head and turn to the window
See the roof next door lift, shingles

Exploding like scattered sparrows, and there
It is—the howl of the locomotive wind

And then a pounding at the glass door
And a screaming that will not stop.