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Ireland’s Favourite Poem

Seamus Heaney

I’m a massive poetry fan. I am in total awe of the art of writing concise, perfectly pitched words that can both devastate and delight your heart. Prose is wonderful of course, but poetry is simply sublime. To me anyway…

There’s just something that captures the soul via its evocative brevity and the imagery it conjures up in one’s mind. They offer balm for tough times, light in darkness or just a welcome recognition of the human condition. With a short collection of words, we can sometimes connect and feel something not usually accessed in the humdrum of every day.

They convey emotions when we can’t. When you have no words of your own to offer, read someone else’s – they can often sort you right out.

So today for National Poetry Day, take a moment to read the poem that is frequently voted as Ireland’s favourite poem from one of our greatest wordsmiths, Seamus Heaney, who, when asked about the art of poetry said,  “I can’t think of a case where poems changed the world, but what they do is they change people’s understanding of what’s going on in the world.”

Very well said (naturally).

Clearances

When all the others were away at Mass
I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.
They broke the silence, let fall one by one
Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:
Cold comforts set between us, things to share
Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes
From each other’s work would bring us to our senses.

So while the parish priest at her bedside
Went hammer and tongs at prayers for the dying
And some were responding and some crying
I remembered her head bent towards my head,
Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives —
Never closer the whole rest of our lives.

By Seamus Heaney.

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