Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Book Notes: The Spirit Level by Seamus Heaney

Today, I finished The Spirit Level by Seamus Heaney. The final poem in the collection is my favorite Heaney poem, “Postscript” – the one that ends with the line “catch the heart off guard and blow it open.”

Heaney won the Costa Book of the Year award for The Spirit Level in 1996 (when the award was called the Whitbread). I’m working my way through the winners of the Costa BOTY, but have only read 12 of the 33 so far, in part because there are several books of poetry on the list.

I’ve been making an effort to read more poetry by keeping a book of poems on my nightstand and reading one poem every morning when I wake up.


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 lightning of a 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 and 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.

Here is a video of Seamus Heaney reading "Postscript" in 2013.

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