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?"

Friday, January 9, 2009

The daddy's favorite post of 2008: Seamus Heaney

Listen up. Folks have asked me about my favorite post of 2008. Yesterday, the daddy posted his favorite political post (Malcolm X). The day before, he posted his favorite musical post (Levi Stubbs). Today, he is posting his favorite poetry post: About the great Irish poet Seamus Heaney. Here is the article:
Seamus Heaney: the daddy
loves him but can't say why
by Mac Walton, aka, Macdaddy

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?


Verna Monson said...

Your speculation about why you're drawn to this poetry, with a rustic flavor, is interesting to me. I think that people are so segregated by location now -- urban and rural, and that the cuts extends to ideology (as in the blue and red states). To me, this is sad. I've had a little of both, and neither are really carefree. I think integration is called for -- cities need more open, green areas where urban kids and adults can be safe and enjoy clean air and growing things, and rural kids and adults need more "urban" pleasures such as broadband access, art, culture, and commerce / jobs.

I guess this is kind of off topic, but that's what your post made me think of.

Anonymous said...

He's universal. He takes you back to a safer, more tranquil place. Your best.

judy said...

yes! i love this post - about a poet with whom i'm completely unfamiliar (despite my slightly irish roots). do i love the post because there's a certain music to macdaddy's voice? or because i like the way he asks questions he doesn't quite answer and that makes me want to try (both to answer and to ask)? or because i was just in the right place to stumble across your blog and get something cool out of it.

i don't know why...

Stella said...

Many writers, MacDaddy. I love satire, American Naturalism, American Romanticism, Chaucer, the Restoration authors, and Shakespeare. I love Langston Hughes (but you know that already) and Dorothy Parker, who never gets the recognition she deserves in academic circles, from the time I was 9. Let me not forget George Orwell.

For me, Parker's a bit uncanny: she wrote the screenplay, Candide, after Voltaire's book. Voltaire, as was Orwell, was a great fan of Jonathan Swift. I love Swift's writings. I lean towards prose rather than poetry—but not all the time.

I don't "feel" Seamus Heaney in the same way as you, but your clean, evocative poetry, MacDaddy, is always a treat. I had an opportunity to see Heaney recite his poetry in Boston, and regret I didn't take that opportunity to do so if only to write about the experience to you.

Jimmy said...

I enjoyed this post McDaddy, I have never heard of Seamus Heaney before, he is very interesting.

I'll have to check out more of his work.

Thanks for turning me on to him!

MacDaddy said...

Judy: Your comments intrigue. I'll have to give it more thought. But the idea is not so much for me to give you answers but provoke you to give your own answers.

Stella: You got me curious. I didn't read anything about her in college. I'll have to check her out. What book should I start with?

Jimmy: Isn't it exciting to discover new, great writers?

SagaciousHillbilly said...

Daddy, Of course his rural images appeal to me, but the real kicker is his clarity. If it gives me a clear mental image or a true moving emotion, that is what poetry is all about for me. . . brevity and movement.

I've tried to get into the Welsh poet who is sometimes hailed as the greatest 20th Century poet. He was from the same place as my G'Gparents and wrote poetry about the farm where he spent his summers next to the one where my g'gfather grew up. I've visited many of the icons of his poetry, met his biographer, etc., etc., but still it's just WAY too abstract and mysterious. . . it's like you need a secret decoder ring to read it.

MacDaddy said...

Sagacious: I think a lot of poetry is too abstract. That's why I don't read some of the poets that are viewed as great and taught in the colleges. I'll take Heaney, Wanda Coleman, or Bob Dylan over those folks any day. By the way, how is it in Florida?

Stella said...

MacDaddy, click on the link. I think all her poems are at that site. She also wrote short stories and plays which are little masterpieces. The best anthology of her work is "The Portable Dorothy Parker." When she passed in 1967, she left her entire estate to the NAACP.

She was a feminist before the term was invented, working as a journalist on the New Yorker and Vanity Fair. She also wrote print advertisements. For a ladies' underwear ad, she borrowed "Brevity is the soul of wit." from Alexander Pope, which she changed to "Brevity is the soul of lingerie."

MacDaddy, nobody reads her in college. I took a lit class from 1912-1945. The prof said we'd be studying Sylvia Plath. I said, "What? That wasn't until the 50's. Why aren't we studying Dorothy Parker who wrote in that period?"

Never did get an answer.

MacDaddy said...

Stella: Thanks for the lesson. I think I'll buy "The Portable Dorothy Parker." Thanks again.