Good Afternoon all,
I have been asked before you today to discuss my opinion on the poetry of Seamus Heaney, and although this style of learning wouldn’t be what you’d be used to, I’m hoping you will all benefit from what I have to say and leave here with a clear understanding of Heaney’s brilliance, questioning the meaning behind what he has written. I have decided to take a thematic approach to this discussion rather than spend set time talking about one poem at a time, only for you to grow confused at the end when thinking about which poem a certain idea has come from as I move from one to other. Instead I’ve decided to compare four of my favourite Heaney poems under three headings. The poems I have chosen are ‘A Constable Calls’, ‘The Forge’, ‘The Skunk’ and ‘A Call’. The three themes I’ve found to be recurring throughout his work are, Love, Time and Isolation. While I was studying Heaney’s poetry I noticed that he talks of Love in many different ways throughout his work. The first of these forms of Love is the love you would all know whether it be from personal experience or just the natural occurrence we see on a daily basis. This love I speak of, is the love Heaney has for his wife as expressed in the poem ‘The Skunk’. The poem is more or less a detailed description of a skunk Heaney sees while he is away on work and how he compares the skunk to his wife. Now you may be thinking to yourself, why would anyone compare someone they love to something as disgusting as a skunk? Well the answer to that is through how Heaney does it; he looks past the infamous pungent smell given off by these animals to show us the glamorous and graceful nature of these creatures. In the poem Heaney sees “the intent and glamorous, ordinary, mysterious skunk”, each night he expects “her like a visitor”, any hint of this skunk being in anyway horrible is totally absent in this poem. Sensual images such as the “desk light softened” or how the “small oranges loomed” are created because the light in both those images is portraying a dim and relaxed atmosphere, representing a loving and calm relationship between Heaney and his wife. This love and the strength of Heaney’s comparison become unquestionable in the ability the skunks presence has in making him, “After eleven years” compose “love-letters again” to his wife. The powerful images of “the skunk’s tail” parading around night after night has an effect on Heaney to think about “The aftermath of a mouthful of wine” being “like inhaling” his wife “off a cold pillow”, all experiences of an erotic nature he most likely remembers from their time together as young lovers. Unlike the love between Heaney and his wife in ‘The Skunk’, the following form of love is the love an artist has for their work as seen in ‘The Forge’. The poem’s effect comes mainly from the significance Heaney places on what the protagonist would probably just see as his normal everyday tools. The vocation of a blacksmith is described as something musical or artistic “the short pitched ring” or the “hiss” of the shoe toughening, all audible imagery allowing us to hear as the blacksmith is hearing as he works “the bellows”. The word “bellow” used in this sentence seems to have an ambiguous double meaning in how it can be used in its literal form as a noun or as a synonym for a shout or song. The love expressed in this poem is much more seen through the eyes of the reader or Heaney himself while the blacksmith would most likely take for granted the love he has for his art. The final form of love I have seen in Heaney’s poetry is the tabooed love he has for his father, which can be seen recurring in several of his poems. In both ‘A Constable Calls’ and ‘A Call’ he uses his father to centralize the poem around, and in both we see a lack of openness or communication about the emotion felt by both towards each other. Is there anyone here who can’t relate to being in a relationship, with anyone where you feel it totally unnecessary...
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