Audiobooks The Spirit Level – Sisnlaw.co.uk

The Spirit Level The poems in Seamus Heaney s collection The Spirit Level keep discovering the possibilities of a new beginning in all kinds of subjects and circumstances What is at stake, in poem after poem, is the chance of buoyancy and balance, physical, spiritual and political Private memories, classical scenes, humble domestic objects a whitewash brush, a sofa, a swing are endowed with talismanic significance, while friends and relatives are invoked for their promise and steadfastness Throughout the collection, Heaney addresses his concerns, which inevitably include the political situation in his native Northern Ireland, in a poetry that never ceases to be fluid, alert and completely truthful This guy s pretty good I am probably not the first person to note that In this collection he gives us ordinary lives, illuminated and made beautiful. A Craftsman of Conjuring To a Dutch Potter in Ireland for Sonya LandweerThen I entered a strongroom of vocabularyWhere words like urns that had come through the fireStood in their bone dry alcoves next a kilnAnd came away changed, like the guard who d seenThe stone move in a diamond blaze of airOr the gates of horn behind the gates of clay.The soils I knew ran dirty River sandWas the one clean thing that stayed itselfIn that slobbery, clabbery, wintry, puddled ground.Until I found Bann clay A Craftsman of Conjuring To a Dutch Potter in Ireland for Sonya LandweerThen I entered a strongroom of vocabularyWhere words like urns that had come through the fireStood in their bone dry alcoves next a kilnAnd came away changed, like the guard who d seenThe stone move in a diamond blaze of airOr the gates of horn behind the gates of clay.The soils I knew ran dirty River sandWas the one clean thing that stayed itselfIn that slobbery, clabbery, wintry, puddled ground.Until I found Bann clay Like wet daylightOr viscous satin under the felt and friezeOf humus layers The true diatomiteDiscovered in a little sucky hole,Grey blue, dull shining, scentless, touchable Like the earth s old ointment box, sticky and cool.At that stage you were swimming in the seaOr running from it, luminous with plankton,A nymph of phosphor by the Norder Zee,A vestal of the goddess Silica,She who is under grass and glass and ashIn the fiery heartlands of Ceramica.We might have known each other then, in thatCold gleam life under ground and off the waterWeird twins of puddle, paddle, pit a pat,And might have done the small forbidden things Worked at mud pies or gone too high on swings,Played secrets in the hedge or touching tongues But did not, in the terrible event.Night after night instead, in the Netherlands,You watched the bombers kill then, heaven sent,Came backlit from the fire through war and wartimeAnd ever after, every blessed time,Through glazes of fired quartz and iron and lime.And if glazes, as you say, bring down the sun,Your potter s wheel is bringing up the earth Hosannah ex infernis Burning wells.Hosannah in clean sand and kaolinAnd, now that the rye crop waves beside the ruins ,In ash pits, oxides, shards and chlorophylls A spirit level or carpenter s level is one of the most important tools of the house carpenter or home builder In these richly layered and finely crafted poems, Heaney aligns himself with his people makers and builders neighbors, artists and craftspeople, parents and relatives people who know pride in skilled handiwork, rare tastes of sweetness, ordinary lives sometimes punctuated or changed forever by violence associated with the Second World War and the Irish Troubles Intimate, homely sensual details intertwine with wistful or traumatic memories Incantatory words of prayers and Christian gospel run like the subtle drone of a bagpipe just below the surface of consciousness, effortlessly mixing with references from ancient Irish or Greek or other traditional stories Several poems explore the difficulty of finding balance, equilibrium in life, how to hold up and not fall to despair, like the wobbling back and forth of the air bubble in the spirit level as the carpenter trues up the the posts, window and door frames of a home Heaney s mastery of language, diction, rhythm and rhyme make many of these poems a pleasure to read and re read aloud A tubular spirit level At the Wellhead Your songs, when you sing them with your two eyes closedAs you always do, are like a local roadWe ve known every turn of in the past That midge veiled, high hedged side road where you stoodLooking and listening until a carWould come and go and leave you lonelierThan you had been to begin with So, sing on,Dear shut eyed one, dear far voiced veteran,Sing yourself to where the singing comes from,Ardent and cut off like our blind neighbourWho played the piano all day in her bedroom.Her notes came out to us like hoisted waterRavelling off a bucket at the wellheadWhere the next thing we d be listening, hushed and awkward.That blind from birth, sweet voiced, withdrawn musicianWas like a silver vein in heavy clay.Night water glittering in the light of day.But also just our neighbor, Rosie Keenan.She touched our cheeks She let us touch her brailleIn books like books wallpaper patterns came in.Her hands were active and her eyes were fullOf open darkness and a watery shine.She knew us by our voices She d say she saw Whoever or whatever Being with herWas intimate and helpful, like a cureYou didn t notice happening When I readA poem with Keenan s well in it, she said, I can see the sky at the bottom of it now Pottery by Sonja Landweer level image from Wikipedia Post script At the center of this 82 page volume was a series of strong, bitter poems told from the point of view of the watchman in the ancient Greek play Agamemnon by Aeschylus The watchman is a sort of corollary to Cassandra, the prophetess cursed by Apollo for refusing his unwanted sexual advances to have prophetic vision and voice that no one listens to In contrast, the watchman sees and hears without being able to speak or intervene as fate unfolds around him After a devastating war, the watchman sees no good, no innocence in anyone Even Cassandra, Agamemnon s war captive, portrayed as a concentration camp victim and a rape victim, he sees as a conniving schemer, faking her victimhood The poem about her plays with rhythm and meter in a way that I find highly disturbing given the subject Here s an excerpt Cassandra No such thingas innocentbystanding.Her soiled vest,her little breasts,her clipped, devast ated, scabbedpunk head,the char eyedfamine gawk she lookedcamp fuckedand simple.Peoplecould feela missedtrueness in themfocus,a homecomingin her dropped wing,half calculatingbewilderment.No such thingas innocent.I believe, or at least hope, that the perspective is deliberately ironic, condemning the attitudes of the victors people to their victims, blaming them for their victimhood To me this series, however brilliant, seemed mismatched with theme and tone of the rest of the collection they are the only poems about fictional characters and don t have the intimacy and immediacy of the other poems about real people and relationships Since Seanus Heaney s recent death I been spending time reading and rereading his poetry This collection is one that I ve not read before, and I m glad that I now have done so The Spirit Level was published in 1996, in the middle of Heaney s career It contains a variety of poetic forms, some poems being formal, some using free verse Each matches its content well.Here are some examples of Heaney s use of language From The Rain Stick In a cactus stalkDownpour, sluice rush, spillage and ba Since Seanus Heaney s recent death I been spending time reading and rereading his poetry This collection is one that I ve not read before, and I m glad that I now have done so The Spirit Level was published in 1996, in the middle of Heaney s career It contains a variety of poetic forms, some poems being formal, some using free verse Each matches its content well.Here are some examples of Heaney s use of language From The Rain Stick In a cactus stalkDownpour, sluice rush, spillage and backwashCome flowing through The entirety of A Call Hold on, she said, I ll just run out and get him.The weather here s so good, he took the chanceTo do a bit of weeding So I saw himDown on his hands and knees beside the leek rig,Touching, inspecting, separating oneStalk from the other, gently pulling upEverything not tapered, frail and leafless,Pleased to feel each little weed root break,But rueful also Then found myself listening toThe amplified grave ticking of hall clocksWhere the phone lay unattended in a calmOf mirror glass and sunstruck pendulums And found myself then thinking if it were nowadays,This is how Death would summon Everyman.Next thing he spoke and I nearly said I loved him And the collection s final poem, implicitly a tribute to Yeats, Postscript And some time make the time to drive out westInto County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,In September or October, when the windAnd the light are working off each otherSo that the ocean on one side is wildWith foam and glitter, and inland among stonesThe surface of a slate grey lake is litBy the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,Their fully grown headstrong looking headsTucked or cresting or busy underwater.Useless to think you ll park and capture itMore thoroughly You are neither here nor there,A hurry through which known and strange things passAs big soft buffetings come at the car sidewaysAnd catch the heart off guard and blow it open This is a wonderful collection I should also mention that the photo of Heaney on the back cover is magnificent and, in light of our recent loss of his great talent and deep humanity, haunting I have to admit, even as I hate doing it, that the only Heaney I have read prior picking up this book is his translation of Beowulf To say that the poems in this collection are good would be correct They are bag of Irish life, ancient myth, and family life It is the Irish ones and Mycenae Lookout that tend to be the most powerful The power of Mycenae Lookout is obvious It is about Troy, told from various views, including a solider waiting for the return of his king and fellow soldiers ev I have to admit, even as I hate doing it, that the only Heaney I have read prior picking up this book is his translation of Beowulf To say that the poems in this collection are good would be correct They are bag of Irish life, ancient myth, and family life It is the Irish ones and Mycenae Lookout that tend to be the most powerful The power of Mycenae Lookout is obvious It is about Troy, told from various views, including a solider waiting for the return of his king and fellow soldiers even as he knows that the king s welcome isn t assured at all Two Lorries is about, well, two lorries, one whom was in fact It is a powerful comment on the Troubles and the fight for Irish independence It is the type of poem you read and cannot forget Reading this small volume you realize how great Heaney was.Crossposted at Booklikes

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