I had to study poetry at school and I largely didn’t get it. Unsurprising really, as TS Eliot was high on the curriculum and as an average 14 year old, I wasn’t on his wavelength. His stuff made me cross it was so affected.
But I remember the day we read Seamus Heaney’s ‘Digging’. It was such a relief to hear the writer’s words make sense immediately, his melancholy and unsettled feelings towards days of old, reminiscing sadly at their passing. I’m not sure I ‘got’ the echoes of Ireland’s violent sectarian split, but I smelt the potato mould and heard the slap of soggy peat. It’s stayed with me.
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.
I just read that he’s died, Seamus Heaney. No more digging for his squat pen. And in the same week as David Frost too. Both aged 74. We’re down two legends.