Sunday, October 31, 2010

Seamus Heaney and James Wright

I'm in the mood for a bit of juxtaposition.  Neither Seamus Heaney nor James Wright are among my great favorites, but each has his moments.  I do keep telling myself I ought to read Heaney's translation of Beowulf, but I fear my ambitions outpace my diligence.

Both of these poems are "epiphany" poems.  I go back and forth over whether I find such poems charming or tiresome.  The final revelations never seems sufficiently earned to me, which makes them feel ersatz and hokey.  And yet.

Seamus Heaney
And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightening of flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully-grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you'll park or capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

A Blessing
James Wright

Just off the Highway to Rochester, Minnesota
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl's wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.


  1. Well, the Wright poem spoke to me... having had such moments with horse-beings that peel my human baggage aside for a time. It is a direct line to communing with the natural world in a way only horses have with those wise eyes of theirs. It is always magical when it happens. Thanks for sharing the poems.

  2. I've never spent much time around horses (having grown up relatively poor and mostly in cities), so your perspective intrigues me. I'm glad you enjoyed!