Seamus Heaney, RIP, and why you should read poetry

Irish poet Seamus Heaney died this week. A friend recommended I read some of the poet’s work before traveling to Ireland. So, I bought Field Work. The first poem — “Oysters” — drew me in. I have wistful memories of an evening during another trip to Ireland.  We were driving in the rain from Galway to our rented apartment in Lahinch when a café appeared in the middle of nowhere. It was dark and we were tired. Our three-year-old son fell asleep on the banquette bench, letting us have a rare moment grown-up time and a peaceful meal of Irish salmon and chilled shellfish.

The poem starts like this

Our shells clacked on the plates.
My tongue was a filing estuary,  
My palate hung with starlight;
As I tasted the salty Pleiades
Orion dipped his foot into the water…

A poet once told me — Everyone hates poetry. That made me sad, even though I don’t really get much of it.
So I decided to stop skipping over the poems in The New Yorker.  And I discovered Philip Shultz and his poem “The Adventures of 78 Charles Street,” which can be found in his zenfully named Pulitzer Prize-winning book  Failure.

It tells the stories of residents like:

Millie Kelterborn, a powerhouse
 of contemptuous capillaries inflamed 
with the memories of rude awakenings

So, I tend to like more literal poems in the same way I like impressionist art and don’t really get much abstract or conceptual art. But, I try to understand the moments and images and emotions these poems, paintings and installations try to capture. That tip came from A Grain of Poetry: How to Read Contemporary Poems and Make Them a Part of Your Life by Herbert Kohl.

The clerk in The Grolier Poetry Bookshop  in Harvard Square recommended it.I recommend a trip to the bookshop.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s