One of my favourite poets is the late Seamus Heaney, and one of my favourite poems is Digging. As poetry, it does many things: it brings to life a hint of nostalgia from childhood memories, it reminds me of the dogged graft of labourers from a previous generation, and then it reminds me to be thankful for the opportunity and the courage to become what I chose to be. Here are the final verses from 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.
It’s a poem about his father, and his father’s father. Both of whom spent much of their lives behind a spade. Digging.
Digging’ is about a poet-son’s relationship with his father and the sense that the working-class son, by choosing the vocation of the poet, is choosing a path very different from his father’s, and his father’s before him. Heaney decides to use his pen as his digging tool, and spends his life performing a very different kind of excavation from that practised by his forefathers.
And we are so much richer and deliciously informed through this poet’s life and work.
Indeed, humanity has been so wonderfully blessed by the work of poet’s through the ages who have enabled poetry to come to life them through.