Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Seamus Heaney- the Daddy Loves Him But Can't Say Why

Even if the hopes you started out with are dashed, hope has to be maintained.
--Seamus Heaney
The Ireland I now inhabit is one that these Irish contemporaries have helped to imagine.
--Seamus Heaney

Today, the daddy is thinking of Seamus Heaney, the Irish poet. You say, "daddy, of course you like Seamus Heaney because he's the Irish guy from a rural town in Northern Ireland who made it big. He wrote more than dozen volumes of poetry, penned numerous articles in literary criticism, performed numerous translations, and wrote two great plays “The Cure at Troy” (his version of Sophocles’ Philoctetes) and The Burial at Thebes (A version of Sophocles' Antigone) ." Great, but the daddy knows a lot of folks who made it and, frankly, he hates many of them (the arrogant ones). So that's not why the daddy likes him.

You say "Oh, please. The guy won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1995." Good for him, but the daddy is not impressed with individual titles. Maybe the daddy likes him because he writes poems that recall the days of simple life on a farm in Ireland, poems like “The Death of a Naturalist:”

Then one hot day when fields were rank
With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs
Invaded the flax-dam. I ducked through the 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 clap and plops 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 catch it.

Or in “Blackberry Picking” where he writes of tasting that first blackberry late in August:

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 can, pea tins, jam pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.

Maybe the daddy was an Irish dude in another life and was reincarnated as a black guy and set down in the center of a project in Atlanta, Georgia and now yearns for the simple life of a farm back in the ole country...Or, more likely, maybe the daddy, having grown up in projects in inner-cities, wishes he had the luxury of a more carefree childhood on a farm, playing with frogs in a stream in the back of his house or picking blueberries just up the hill in late August.

Writing with clarity

Maybe the daddy likes this guy because he writes poems with such clarity and specificity about the familiar, the routine, poems like this one where he distills the silent beauty of a woman (perhaps his wife or mother) as the sunlight shines down upon her as she prepares a meal:

“…and the sun stood
like a griddle cooling
against the wall

of each long afternoon.
So, her hands scuffled
over the bakeboard,
the reddening stove

sent its plaque of heat
against her where she stood
in a floury apron
by the window.

Now she dusts the board
with a goose’s wing
now sits, broad-lapped,
with white nails

and measling shins:
here is a space
again, the scone rising
to the tick of two clocks.

And here is love
like a tinsmith’s scoop
sunk past its gleam
in the meal-bin.

Something more spiritual

Maybe it's because his writing makes the daddy feels a special kinship to him and to Ireland, especially those poems in the book “North.” For some reason, the daddy keeps coming back to the poem “Whatever You Say, Say Nothing,” especially these lines:

Smoke signals are loud-mouthed with us:
Maneuverings to find out name and school,
Subtle discrimination by addresses
With hardly an exception to the rule.

That Norman, Ken and Sidney signaled Prod
And Seamus (call me Sean) was sure-fire Pape.
O land of password, handgrip, wink and nod,
Of open minds as open as a trap,

Where tongues lie coiled, as under flames lie wicks,
When half of us, as in a wooden horse,
Were cabin’d and confined like wily Greeks,
Besieged with the siege, whispering morse.

So does the daddy love Heaney because he is a reincarnated Irishmen? Because, through Heaney, he can go into a time machine and go to a pond and play with frogs in his backyard?... or because, through Seamus, he can connect more closely to humanity, a humanity that reminds him that wherever there is oppression, there is a Northern Ireland?

Yes, the daddy loves Seamus, but he can't say why.

Ever loved a writer or a book but couldn't say why?


sdg1844 said...

Wow. He's truly wonderful. Thanks for the introduction. I read a book called "Waiting In Vain" by Colin Channer and it was one of the most lyrical, poetic and visual stories about love btwn a man and a woman I'd read in some time.

Somebodies Friend said...

Thank You Daddy!

I have been in a funk these last few weeks, and you always bring forth just what I need, when I need it.

These are trying times, and I must remember that God will always prop me back up if I feel like I am going to fall.

God Bless You Daddy!

Anonymous said...

Never heard of him. When are you going to write about Maya Angelou?

Kellybelle said...

I like Seamus Heaney. The Irish were like the Black people of Europe, until Europe actually got some Black people to kick around.
Heaney's writing refelcts that.

Nun in the Hood said...

MacDaddy, you never cease to AMAZE me with the breadth of exposure you give us bloggers! THANKS for NOT writing about Sarah Palin....Life is so NARROW at that convention, and I was just foolish enough to watch it last night, and like anoth of the bloggers I have been in a funk all day....glad I signed into your blog.....I picked me up, too.....
Have you sent this piece to Sr. Joanna????
She'd love it....

Somebodies Friend said...

Say Daddy,

Ol' Seamus Heaney really sends a tough message, I get the most out of his work if I read it through a few times. New revelations come each time. I think I need to read it a few more times though!

Keep up the good work!

CurvyGurl said...

Hey MacDaddy! I agree with Nun in the Hood, you've expanded my knowledge base. Thanks for adding another great poet to the list!

*Side note -- I forgot to tell you the other day that maybe me and my friends should visit MN since your other friends turn their noses up at the guys you introduce them to...more fun for chicas like*

rainywalker said...

I always remembered the first blackraspberry when I was a kid. Your question? They give us a feeling inside that we know, no other member of our species can provide. I have a series of 23 books written by a Vietnam veteran and have read 22 of them many times. I just can't read the last one, because then there wouldn't be any of him left. I told my children to put it in my coffin and I'll read it later. I'm sure if anyone, you can understand.

Somebodies Friend said...


I don't know about anybody else, but I do understand, I can relate to that more than anything else in this world, we'll see about the next one.


MacDaddy said...

sdg: Sounds like a book I'd like to read. Thanks
somebodiesfriend: My aunt used to tell me "Troubles don't last always."
kellybelle: It's perspective. BTW, love your blog.
nun: I think a lot of people come to my blog precisely to get away from Sarah "pit bull" Palin. What a shameful party. Come back anytime.
CurvyGurl: Yes, he's a great one, perhaps the greatest. I think I'll post a couple of his poems today.
rainywalker: I can understand.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

Daddy, Maybe you love him because unlike some other great Celtic poets that others try to imitate and who we won't (Dylan Thomas) mention, Heaney is straight forward and understandable. Although I too sometimes try to imitate he who is from the land of my ancestors (my ancestor's farm is next door to Fern Hill) and is regarded as one of if not the best of the 20th Century, I like my poetry clear and straight forward.

MacDaddy said...

sagacious: You may be right. Heaney is very understandable. His poem about the woman in the kitchen with the sun shining down upon her reminded me of June Jordan's poem about the great activist Fannie Lou Hamer sitting in a laundromat wearing a printed dress. It reminded me of my mother.

Rastamick61 said...

Forgive me if I generalize but i feel the irish sense of humor is very similar to black american humor maybe a coping mechanism to oppression, i also find neither group excels in putting up with b.s. for very long

here's a link :

MacDaddy said...

rastamick: Thanks for the input.