Write a letter to Seamus Heaney telling him how you responded to some of his poems on your course. Support the points you make by detailed reference to the poems you choose to write about.
8 White Road,
Mr Seamus Heaney,
1864 Forbes Rd,
Dear Seamus Heaney,
During the course of my study for the Leaving Certificate, I have studied many of your poems. I enjoyed them immensely and feel compelled to write about my initial response to a few of my favourite poems of yours. Those poems being: ‘A Constable Calls’, ‘Sunlight’, ‘The Skunk’, and, ‘The Call’. The imagery, language and, themes in these poems were very striking to me and I found I could strongly relate to them. Below I would like to discuss how I could relate to the poems and my reactions to them.
Firstly, I would like to speak about ‘A Constable Calls’. My response to this poem was one of shock. Before reading this poem, I have never thought a poem could make me feel a particular emotion. The poem made me feel uneasy, which I assume was your intention? The final line “Ticked, ticked, ticked” made me feel particularly uneasy. I imagined this line representing two things, the first being the countdown to the troubles in Northern Ireland. After studying History, I understand the terror and hardship of the troubles. I think, knowing what is about to come makes it even more intimidating. The second thing I believe the last line represents is the sound of a bomb. The use of onomatopoeia made me feel like there was really a bomb in the room. This sent chills down my spine. I believe you skilfully captured a child’s perspective on the events in the poem and this skill at evoking a child’s state of mind made me feel as if I were transported back into my early childhood. This made the events in the poem seem more real, believable, and tense.
I was happy to read ‘Sunlight’ after reading ‘A Constable Calls’. To me, ‘Sunlight’ created a sense of relief from ‘A Constable Calls’. The poem, for me, created a sense of refuge from the conflict, presented as a place of security and comfort. The water and scones are associated with nourishment, and the aunt is “broad lapped” and welcoming. Through the images of the sun and the oven, you created a homely warmth that made me feel at ease and relaxed. An image that strengthened this welcoming and safe atmosphere is “The helmeted pump in the yard”. The pump stands guard and watches over the house. The theme of childhood mentality that you created was once again, mad the poem more believable and real. I could actually imagine a little boy following his aunt around the kitchen in awe as she bakes. I really connected with this poem as this image reminded me of when I was younger and my grandmother would bake. I too was amazed at the skill and craft that came along with baking scones.
My response to your poem ‘The Skunk’ surprised me a lot. I did not believe I would be able to relate to a poem about love and marriage, as I am only young and unexperienced in that area of life. But, it turns out I could connect very well to this poem. I myself am a hopeless romantic and this poem was right down my alley. This poem showed how a couple can retain their love and desire for one another even after eleven years of marriage. This is a very reassuring idea for me, that two hearts could still long for one another after many years of being together. The poem made me think about the future and made me wonder if anyone could miss me as much as the speaker in the poem missed his wife. I wondered if anyone would write me love letters and ponder deeply over the word wife, compare it to something as strong as “a stored cask”. Another aspect of the poem that greatly impressed me was the explosion of senses throughout the poem. The detailed descriptions throughout the poem aroused my sense of sight, smell, taste and hearing. It was if I could actually hear the refrigerator as it “whinnied into silence”. I could practically smell the oranges that “loomed in the orange tree”. I could taste the “mouthful of wine”. And I could imagine perfectly the desk light that “softened behind the veranda”. It is this physical connection that makes ‘The Skunk’ a fantastic poem.
Probably one of my favourite poems you wrote is ‘A Call’. Personally, I imagine the speakers on the end of the phone as the speaker’s mother and father. This thought instantly made me think of my own parents, especially my father. You portrayed your father as a gentle and sensitive man, quite like my own father. The father in the poem removes the weeds from his leek bed gently, seeming to regret the need to kill these invading plants. I got the sense that you are very fond of your father and think of him as a kindly and decent person. I feel the exact same way about my father also. So when the theme of death entered the poem I felt both shocked and overwhelmed. Time is constantly passing, bringing each of us closer to death. This is emphasised by the mention of the ticking of clocks in the hallway. The sound of ticking is described as ‘grave’, this bring to mind the notion of death itself. The emptiness of the hall brought to mind the emptiness I may feel when my father passes away. After reading the last line “Next thing he spoke and I nearly said I loved him” I had the overwhelming urge to run into my father’s arms and tell him that I love him. All in all, I enjoyed reading this poem immensely and believe it has strengthened my relationship with my father.
To conclude my letter, I would like to congratulate you on the marvellous work you have created over the years. I have never felt so close and connected to poetry before I read your poems. Your themes of conflict, childhood mentality, love, marriage and family along with your skilful use of language and imagery, brought to life in me feeling I never thought were there. My responses to your poems varied from shock, unease, comfort, awe, and love. I am ever-grateful to you Mr Heaney for creating such fabulous poetry and I hope you rest in peace.