Thursday, December 2, 2010

Literary Blog Hop 3

I'm excited to again be a part of my favorite blog hop, hosted by The Blue Bookcase.  The prompt this week is: "What is your favorite poem and why?"

Literary Blog Hop

It was only a matter of time before I had to talk about poetry on my blog.  I have been avoiding it because the truth is that in general, I do not particularly care for it.  I can feel myself tensing from the potential dissent you may be experiencing, but before you write me off altogether, I want you to know that there are some poems I do really enjoy.  I have tried to avoid equating "Classic Literature" with novels because I do think some poems deserve to join its ranks. However, I do not really like sonnets, Jacobean poetry, Wordsworth, Whitman, Yeats, Dickinson... oh dear.  I realize that these authors are probably quite gifted and well loved by many, but they just lack the indefinable quality that grabs me in literature.  Anna Akhmatova is wonderfully Russian, and yet even she cannot bring me into a love for her poems.  And I loved Shel Silverstein, of course, but he doesn't qualify as "literary" for me.  I'm tempted to defer to epic poems I love like The Odyssey, The Inferno, and Paradise Lost.  And while they certainly count as poetry, that's not what I'll highlight for this blog hop.  Now after my lengthy introduction, I will tell you that my answer is.... SEAMUS HEANEY.

Ok, he's a poet rather than a poem, but any of his poems could be my favorite.  You can check out some of them on this link.  He is a master with language.  The wording he uses is brilliant, full of onomatopoeia (words whose meaning match their sound) and alliteration.  Sometimes a word dangles on the end of the line, like "crusting" or "striking" or "cooling" that pushes you to keep going.  His poems are like paintings somehow, with delicate strokes and harsh strikes.  The words he uses are also so creative.  "Death of a Naturalist" is one of my favorites and incorporates words like "gargled" and "clotted" and "slap and plop."  I can hear the noises of his scenes within the words themselves, and I can easily picture everything.  You've got to read his poems out loud.  And I think he also touches on deep and meaningful ideas embedded in the poetry.  Something that may appear simple actually has a message within it through the word choice.  Oh man, he's fantastic.


parrish lantern said...

I love the works os Seamus heaney, almost as much as Hughes, they both plough a similar field with naturalistic detail, revealing the inner spirit, and their use of language with idioms long lost to current usage.



He would drink by himself
And raise a weathered thumb
Towards the high shelf,
Calling another rum
And blackcurrant, without
Having to raise his voice,
Or order a quick stout
By a lifting of the eyes
And a discreet dumb-show
Of pulling off the top;

just the precision of this image is just fantastic.
Brilliant Choice.


Red said...

I'm not familiar with Seamus Heaney but your description makes me want to check him out, especially your description of his poetry like a painting. Thanks

Melody said...

I've read his translation of Beowulf (same guy, right?) but that's my only experience with him. From the examples of his poetry I've just looked up, I'd have to say that he does have a very unique voice, and seems to have a clear grasp on what he's communicating.

Amy said...

Yes, he did do a translation of Beowulf! I'm impressed you know this, because I never remember the names of translators. In fact, I didn't realize Heaney did Beowulf until last year. I'm glad you are all encouraged to check him out - particularly if you are already a fan of poetry. And FYI, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995.

readerbuzz said...

I disagree with you about Silverstein. I say he is literary. He's deep without being pompous and he's clever and funny. Rare.

Here's my post:

parrish lantern said...


She taught me what her uncle once taught her
How easily the biggest coal block split
if you got thr grain and the hammer angled right.

The sound of that relaxed alluring blow
Its co-opted and obliterated echo
Taught me to hit, taught me to loosen,

Taught me between the hammer and the block
To face the music, teach me now to listen
To strike it rich behind the linear black.

Seamus Heaney

Amy said...

@readerbuzz - I mean no offense to Silverstein; I love the guy. I became a dedicated fan as a kid and read everything he read. His story "Missing Piece Meets Big O" was even influential in my parents' relationship. :) And with that book and "The Giving Tree" I can see elements of the depth you may admire. But I am pretty stingy with my title of "literary Classics" and I personally don't feel I can quite give it out to him. This does not detract from his talent, humor, or cleverness whatsoever. In fact, I think his poetry is better the way it is than if it tried to be more "literary." But I completely respect your opinion and appreciate hearing from another fan of good ol' Shel.

the Crow himself said...

Amy, it's fun to read your perspective of Heaney, as he is one of my favorites as well. I love him for many of the same reasons you note, including his facility for using onomatopoeia. I was surprised when a writing tutor of mine denigrated him for the same talent, as he felt that it was below good poetry, but that just reminds me that so much of reading literature is finding a resonance with both the content and the style. I love poems that play with sound the way Heaney does. He reminds me of a grumpy old man who used to tell me that a poem is only half-alive until it's read aloud.