Featured Poet: Seamus Heaney

The path to success is to take massive, determined action.

 

When Seamus Heaney won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995, he had already been writing poems since the 1960s. Born in Northern Ireland in 1939, Heaney grew up in a politically divisive world as WWII was beginning. He excelled at school and became a teacher and poet, often spending time in the United States to educate pupils there. Heaney also wrote plays and spent time traveling as a professor; however, he is most remembered for his poetry.

Heaney’s poetry contains themes of nature, relationships, working life, and Irish culture. Take his poem “Blackberry Picking” as an example:

For Philip Hobsbaum
Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.
Heaney used language that invoked our senses: words like “fermented,” “sour,” and “sticky.” He brought his readers into his world and helped them connect with the earth.

Featured Poetry: “Lacunae” by Daniel Nadler

lacunae

Ripening spots of white starlight onto our cold blue sphere,

you made the night reflect everything

in pools of water.

 

Even the wet streets of the planet would see me reaching for

your hand

like a paddle returning to the surface of a lake.

You’ve just read an excerpt from poet Daniel Nadler’s debut collection. Entitled Lacunae: 100 Imagined Ancient Love Poems, this collection explores what exists in the unmentioned or unrecorded moments of life in an ancient world.

But what does “lacunae” mean? As defined in the Oxford English Dictionary: “In a manuscript, an inscription, the text of an author: A hiatus, blank missing portion.”

With these new poems, Nadler intends to fill invented or actual lacunae in classical Indian manuscripts. These ancient writings were documented in 3 different languages- Sanskrit, Old Tamil, and Maharastri Prakrit- but Nadler’s poems use English instead. Each of the poems is fairly short, usually around just 2 stanzas, which aligns with their purpose of being “fill-ins.” Through these musings, Nadler explores imaginative, rich depths of feeling, with hints at a bigger plot unseen.

None of these poems are titled, so the table of contents records each lacuna as its first line. For example, the poem below is recorded as “A glacier glows pink.”

A glacier glows pink

from the sun it encases

in its ice. This is what is told

about time.

For more about poet Daniel Nadler, read his enlightening interview with The Boston Review or his Poetry Foundation‘s biography.

Check out Lacunae in the library: you can view its availability here.

 

Featured Poet: Rita Dove

 

rita-dove

In 1993, Rita Dove became the youngest person and the first African American to be appointed Poet Laureate of the United States.

According to the Poetry Foundation, Dove studied vigorously throughout her early career, earning her a Fulbright scholarship in Germany. Dove received her MFA from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and soon began to establish herself as a noteworthy poet:

Dove made her formal literary debut in 1980 with the poetry collection The Yellow House on the Corner, which received praise for its sense of history combined with individual detail. The book heralded the start of long and productive career, and it also announced the distinctive style that Dove continues to develop.

Dove writes about language, history, the arts, and her own experiences as a black woman in the United States. Here in full is an example of her poetry, “Heart to Heart:”

Heart to Heart
It’s neither red
nor sweet.
It doesn’t melt
or turn over,
break or harden,
so it can’t feel
pain,
yearning,
regret.
It doesn’t have
a tip to spin on,
it isn’t even
shapely—
just a thick clutch
of muscle,
lopsided,
mute. Still,
I feel it inside
its cage sounding
a dull tattoo:
I want, I want
but I can’t open it:
there’s no key.
I can’t wear it
on my sleeve,
or tell you from
the bottom of it
how I feel. Here,
it’s all yours, now—
but you’ll have
to take me,
too.

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Several of Dove’s works are included in the library’s collection, such as On the Bus with Rosa Parks: Poems and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Thomas and Beulah. Check them out today!