Seamus Heaney : Other Places

Part Colin Davidson portraitPublic Poetry Reading Ulster Hall April 10 2014
Part of the Seamus Heaney :A conference and commemoration.

My introduction.
Prayer as the Christian faith has it from the scriptures, is a private communication. A conversation alone with God.
Poetry it is said, and said once more here, as Prayer with the paper proximity and choice of seclusion acts of lone conversation with another’s words.

As human beings we do not conform to ideals but need the shape of others to resonate and collide with to approximate our truth.
Nothing we know is absolute, yet humanity abides and continues in our souls. Other Places are also other people, ourselves alone together.
The gathering on this occasion was homage to a Master and the only way it can be described here is in poetry which the item below attempts.

Other places

The Ulster Hall it’s theatre stalls
collapsible like a boxing ring
fill with people awaiting recited poems
published ripe as nectarine pipped and clean

The pastel walls spot residual damp
Almost hidden behind freshest paint
Focus instead onto the hall wide stage
command the organs pipes gold and gilt

The ear of the replenished soul is cupped
the evening is upon us air is gathered in
The favoured literati remember the sagacity
chosen decks of words joined here spill forth

Virgil yes, remembered, Plato yes,
a festival of learning each other’s speech
No language mutating hard thought, eased
the mind is mine enough to sculpt a poem

My current taste of Stevie Smith has gained
through thinking of Seamus Heaney recognising
‘A memorable voice’, envious of Palmer’s Green?
Seneca scored ‘How do you see?’ 1972 then.

Now girded we recoil ‘we shall kill everybody’
‘It will be too much for us… we shall..’ Seamus
knew the quicksand of a life and poems of the ear
Warmth drew on his breath ‘Be good to one another’

The poets try their damnedest to reflect
to profoundly, simultaneously move on
To catch this latent energy of now
excellence needed summoned every word

Universe, a train, tea ripples in a cup
Dublin, Malahide, Montana, Missouri
Dundee, Derry, no three counties
Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire

But the world as seen from Lanacashire,
Lanarkshire, Gloustershire, Middlesex
.. Oft ‘Rockall, Finisterre’ a field a radio,
A Church locked up grave silent under sky

Where have we been? we haven’t seen
the half of it before our eyes, sat down to tea
With furrowed brow aghast at the obscene TV
Bodies churned up with wild flower gutted

Home is near this place, divided
It’s in this world at least, our body’s
reside one place at a time, Home
That place we know, we’ve seen and been.

Seamus filled our hearts our heads
with things we knew lay beyond our walls
Two fields were plenty enough, a fence
to start a war or plough thus eat.

Suffering from wielded power
Opposition brooked, hunched carries on
paying by blood a fast a pilgrim
hatred, all sins now gathered in

Seamus left us half afraid, for
the other half we return, to
stations next to words, who
Since you think, mind, ever placed

Black cubes, huge sound boxes hang
from the hall roof amidst the plasterwork
Ornate and sparse words ejected, contact
The flesh and bones in regular lines, the rows

Giving your senses reason for endeavour
immaculate organs in decay seek another
body another’s skin to hold, meniscus thin
That water of us we live within

From the trenches, written, ‘Dearest War
Remember me,’ Dead of Hampstead Heath
The airey Christ takes care of them, peace
be upon us, render us relief, hear his song.

Under the bridge, the water flows, taking
your angst reflection downstream, with
the leaves, the twig you snapped, the Kingfisher
Soars, slickly through our canopy, this earth

John Graham

April 11 2014

Belfast

Kingfisher
That Kingfisher amongst the awesome beauty this world provides can make our hearts soar and think as G.M. Hopkins wrote :
‘Each mortal thing does one thing and the same;
from ‘As Kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame’
The division of presence of things. Into this we know our own diversity, what the Hopkin’s folk call self-nature. From the inward poet; G.M.H. Bespoke of his own nature, that he seeks and obtains just cause within to act out his being as influenced by the divine spirit. Christ ‘plays in a thousand places’.

In For my brother – Missing in action 1943.

For in the wreckage of your April Christ lies slain,
And Christ weeps in the ruins of my spring:
The money of Whose tears shall fall
Into your weak and friendless hand,
And you buy back to your own land:

The silence of Whose tears shall fall
Like bells upon your alien tomb.
Here them and come: they call you home.

Thomas Merton

A Clear Midnight
THIS is my hour O soul, thy free flight into the wordless,
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes
thou loves best.
Night, sleep, death and the stars.

Walt Whitman

The themes we encountered and which I have gone beyond for my own exercise take in the Seamus Heaney effect of most Northern Irish people who read his work. It is our narrative and has been the worlds progress to hear this voice. This commemoration comes within a void. The spring void.
The Easter resurrection so vivid in a spiritual life. Our being challenged by thoughts of others and our own actions. So has it been, this re-encounter with the work of Seamus Heaney, appearing as a miraculous body of work building on the work gone by and kept for future generations to which he generously opened consciousness buried within.
Even now or because it is such an additional wealth for us to carry forward, the themes he covered were of people and places and also of death and I cannot but wonder how Stevie Smith felt of the close to home troubles and 1972 violence as she struggled with her Christian beliefs. How marked upon her Seamus Heaney’s work was and how incendiary most poetry can be, either in the private act of reading or as prayer.

John Graham

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