I’ve spent the last hour or so reading through The Penguin Book of Irish Poetry (2010) which is edited by Patrick Crotty and my thoughts keep returning to Seamus Heaney whose death has left such an indelible mark on 2013.
Even though I was flicking backwards and forwards through this tome which stretches way back to before 1200, I found that my fingers were determined to stay on page 738 which is right in the middle of the section devoted to the poetry of Seamus Heaney. I can hear his voice, just as it was that balmy summer night in 2009 when I heard him read in St. Canice’s Cathedral in Kilkenny.
His passion, humanity and absolute love of words and poetry were so palpable as he poured his heart into reading each poem as if for the very first time. I wonder did he have any concept of his own greatness and the extent to which he touched people with his brilliance and insight into life’s senses, layers and connectivities?
The lines that keep asking to be read tonight are these from:
A Sofa in the Forties
All of us on the sofa in a line, kneeling
Behind each other, eldest down to youngest,
Elbows going like pistons, for this was a train
And between the jamb-wall and the bedroom door
Our speed and distance were inestimable.
First we shunted, then we whistled, then
Somebody collected the invisible
For tickets and very gravely punched it
As carriage after carriage under us
Moved faster, chooka-chook, the sofa legs
Went giddy and the unreachable ones
Far out on the kitchen floor began to wave.