Monday, September 2, 2013
Heaney was raised a Catholic, in County Londonderry, in predominantly Protestant Northern Ireland. In 1972 he resigned from his position at Queen's University in Belfast, and moved to the south. The rural landscapes of his childhood — and of the cottage he and his wife first rented, then owned, in County Wicklow — feature strongly in his poetry.
Seamus Heaney will long be remembered as one of the greatest poets of our time. The following poem is the first from his 1996 collection The Spirit Level, published shortly after he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
The Rain Stick
for Beth and Rand
Upend the rain stick and what happens next
Is a music that you never would have known
To listen for. In a cactus stalk
Downpour, sluice–rush, spillage and backwash
Come flowing through. You stand there like a pipe
Being played by water, you shake it again lightly
And diminuendo runs through all its scales
Like a gutter stopping trickling. And now here comes
A sprinkle of drops out of the freshened leaves,
Then subtle little wets off grass and daisies;
Then glitter–drizzle, almost breaths of air.
Upend the stick again. What happens next
Is undiminished for having happened once,
Twice, ten, a thousand times before.
Who cares if all the music that transpires
Is the fall of grit or dry seeds through a cactus?
You are like a rich man entering heaven
Through the ear of a raindrop. Listen now again.
*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Seamus Heaney: first post; second post
Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca