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Top 100 or so Poems of All Time -- "Digging" by Seamus Heaney

Modern poet Seamus Heaney passed away in 2013.  One of the most significant (Major) poets of the 20th century, Heaney was a member of what has come to be considered the "Northern School" of Irish poetry, and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995. 

Seamus has been called "that rare thing, a poet rated highly by critics and academics yet popular with 'the common reader'.(Blake Morrison, from his work Seamus Heaney)".  

Heavily influenced by the religious, political, farming, and industrial realities of Northern Irish life, Heaney was also keenly aware of (and sensitive to) the social and parental influences which caused personal conflict in life, and used poetry to illustrate and ultimately reconcile these conflicts -- and those of his beloved Ireland.

Most importantly, Heaney encouraged the use of poetry by others as a means to creatively reconcile personal conflict through the art of wordsmithing, and leveraged his career and various prestigous positions to the promotion of poetry.

Seamus Heaney has several poems in our "Top 100" series.  "Digging" is widely considered to be his most popular or famous (or classic) work, and is in fact the first poem in his first published collection of poems!

Enjoy this one!  Comments are welcome...

By Seamus Heaney

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pin rest; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.

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