In heading out for Ireland, I decided to put down the poetry I was reading at the time and pick up a book of Poems by Seamus Heaney. I sort of arbitrarily picked out his book of poems titled Wintering Out. This book of poems is written in two parts, the first of which I finished today.
I have noticed a few things about Heaney. He is an earthy poet. Most of his poems bring the reader back down to earth, whether that be bringing the reader to the earth itself (as in soil) or bringing the reader down to the railroad laborer or the farmer. And his language tends toward farm-related and rural – since he grew up in Northern Ireland in small to midsized towns and villages – where farmland could be found easily. Second, I have noticed that his poems are confusingly, but delightfully subtle. Whereas a poet like Christian Wiman packs a punch of brutal Christian honesty, Heaney conceals and slightly reveals the truth he wishes to speak.
Upon finishing the first part of Wintering Out, I will quote one of my favorite poems so far.
A NEW SONG
I met a girl from Derrygarve
And the name, a lost potent musk,
Recalled the river’s long swerve,
A kingfisher’s blue bolt at dusk
And stepping stones like black molars
Sunk in the ford, the shifty galze
Of the whirlpool, the Moyola
Pleasuring beneath the alder trees.
And Derrygarve, I thought, was just,
Vanished music, twilit water,
A smooth libation of the past
Poured by this chance vestal daughter.
But now our river tongues must rise
From licking deep in native haunts
To flood, with vowelling embrace,
Demesnes staked out in consonants.
And Castledawson we’ll enlist
And Upperlands, each planted bawn —
Like bleaching-greens resumed by grass —
A vocable, as rath and bullaun.
My notes:  Derrygarve: a town in Co. (London)Derry, Norther Ireland,  vestal: referring to Vesta, the virgin goddes of the hearth, home, and family,  haunts: frequently visited places,  Demesnes: pieces of land attached to manors and retained by the owners for their own uses,  Castledawson: a village in Co. (London)Derry, Northern Ireland,  Upperlands: a village in Co. (London)Derry, Northern Ireland,  rath: a strong circular earthen wall forming an enclosure and serving as a fort and residence for a tribal chief,  bullaun: stones with bowls formed by water in them; believed to have magical/mystical/spiritual powers