Feb 242012
 

Afterthoughts (District and Circle).

Finding the blend.

The most successful poets share much in common with the best chefs; the latters’ knowledge of the finest products supplemented by a talent that adds the individual flavours of spices, herbs and myriad ingredients in just the right amounts at just the right moment produces the unique, mouth-watering experiences capable of delighting and inspiring those who savour the result. The ‘knowledge’ is gleaned from experience and requires hard work; the ‘talent’ is a gift granted only  to the very few.

In these respects Heaney is a craftsman pursuing a similar goal.In District and Circle he is the ‘master-chef’.

In some earlier poems, for example North, Viking Dublin and Bone Dreams (from the collection North of 1975), Heaney offered insights into the poetic process as he experienced it.

What becomes clear without specific comment from Heaney is that whatever the initial stages in the process, the moment a poem ‘comes on’ or ideas with a poetic charge emerge, the stages by which these are translated into poetic form involve a deliberate and sometimes lengthy process of composition and revision, selection and rejection that determines the ultimate structure, vocabulary, verse-form, imagery and potential for success of each poem.

At one stage or another the poet will settle on: the length of the poem and its internal structure; the nature of the verse (free or rhymed); the choice of individual words or phrases most fitting to carry ideas through, thanks to their meaning, implication or sound, and so on. Whilst this is a far from exhaustive list of considerations it does indicate that inspiration is not automatic and that spontaneity can only gain from being worked upon.

In addition to the depth and richness of his personal ‘word hoard’, his personal store of material, gleaned from scholarship and interest, plus a sensitivity and a discrimination born of wide reading of literature, Heaney has access to a rich vein of poetic devices accessible to and used by all poets; he will select from the list deliberately, adapting them to his own intentions, perhaps because he wants them to add something, or ring a change, or carry an image through, or provide an echo; his aim in brief: to turn ordinary language into something special, a recipe of ingredients into a culinary feast for the senses. There is an alphabetical list of such stylistic devices at the end of this volume; knowing them by name is useful but ‘spotting’ one is less valuable, perhaps, than appreciating what it brings to the poem.

The blending of these ingredients can be roughly translated as ‘style’, that is, the ‘mix’ favoured by Heaney in each poem to carry his message forward (v. footnotes that comment on this aspect).

Not least in these considerations is the question of resonance; the richness and variation of consonant and vowel sounds provide the poet with a musicality over and above the bare narrative. Heaney knows this and rings the changes within his poems.Broadly (though not uniquely) the two aspects that best resonate are assonance and alliteration. For questions of oral delivery, intonation and cadence see the relevant section below
Using assonance.

In District and Circle Heaney experiments with a variety of poetic forms and rhyme schemes; these are summarised below. Beyond these end-of-line rhymes he also indulges in internal echoes of vowel sounds.

The poet places a rich variety of assonances in ostensibly random but in fact quite deliberate order, now juxtaposed, now separated by other figures. He is seeking to compose perfectly tuned phrases and wants his developing skill of playing with musicality of language and word order to generate beautifully turned passages. His thought processes and instinctive use of rhythm seem to go hand in hand, whether in phrases of bare simplicity or more complex ideas and emotions.

The English language with its complex spelling system offers assonant effects by creating words that sound remarkably similar even though their spelling is radically different: e.g. wood/ would

Equally, offering no assonant effect, some words with similar spelling sound very different: ought/ though/ through/ cough.

The present document uses standard Phonetic symbols alongside assonant sounds; theses are tabled below.

Using alliteration.

Consonants differ according to where in the mouth they are formed: between the lips [p] [b] ; behind the teeth [t] [d]; velar or alveolar [[dʒ] [k]. Some, identically produced, are voiced [b], some are voiceless [p]. Some ‘plode’ in a single sound, others can be continuous, floating on air being exhaled [s] [w], some are nasal [m], [n], [ŋ] (as in ‘ring’ some involve friction [f], others are frictionless [w].

The poem can benefit from all of these ‘musical’ alternatives and Heaney knows it.  He sprinkles his composition with alliterated consonants judged best suited to mood or melody. No poem seems bereft of this ossibility, some are loaded; they may feature an interweave of sounds made in the same area of the mouth e.g. [s] [sh] [k] [tʃ] [dʒ] such that the resonance echoes and re-echoes with the tiniest of variations.

Heaney’s alliterations arrive in pairs or larger groupings. Alliteration and assonance can be used in tandem to create a different effect:  The permutations are endless and Heaney rings the changes as each individual poem reveals on close examination.

The Turnip Snedder

  • Without a formal rhyme scheme the poem is rich in assonant and alliterative effects;
  • Assonances: the first lines weaves the variant sounds of the vowel ‘a’: [ei] age; [ei] bare; [æ] hands/ cast/ clamp; later [ʊə]: water; this is followed in turn by chains (close or separated of  [i:]: meat/ wheeled/ heels/ heat/ greaves/ seedling; then [ʌ]: double/ dug/ among wooden tubs/ summertime/ bucketful; [ɒ]: troughs/ slops/ body; [ɑː]: armour/ guard; [ɜː]: turned/ turnip; [e]: snedder/ let/ fed/ mess              
  • alliterations: bilabial nasal [m] meat/ mincer and bilabial frictionless [w] wheeled/ water/ echoed later through wooden/ winter;
  • a succession of paired sound phrases (assonant and alliterative) each aimed at a slightly different effect: trough/ slops; hotter/ heat; barrel-chested breast; guard/ greaves; sees/ seedling; said/ braird; fall/ fed; sliced mess/ glistering; consonant sounds form groupings: nasal [m]; bi-labial plosive [p] and [b]; velar [t] and [d] formed in the same part of the mouth tied together by frequent velar sibilant [s];

 

A Shiver

  • the sonnet has discernible rhymes abcd/ abcd in its first 8 lines: ‘sledge’ – ‘sledge’, ‘fast’ – last; waist – ‘rest’; ‘cage’ – ‘rage’; these disappear after the volta; .
  • The way… is repeated three times as technique is described; its absence from the final lines may be judged ironic in that unwelcome abuses of power are not yet endemic;
  • assonant effects: [u] you/ to/ to/two; [ɒ] locked/ shock-fast; a weave of sounds [ɪ [ai] and [ei]: in/ spine/ waist/ pivot/ tight-braced, tilting rib-cage/ its/ iron; [ʌ] un yieldingly/ club-footed; [e] heft/ then half-rest; [ɪit in/ Withholdable at will; ʊknown/ bones/ Withholdable/ blow/ so; finally [ei] staked/ quailed;
  • alliterative effects: the sonnet is initially rich in sibilant [s] and [ʃ] (sh) sounds, later replaced by voiced and voiceless velar plosives [d] and [t];

Polish Sleepers

  • A sonnet based on lines of 10 syllables in 2 sentences; no formal rhyme scheme;
  • Alliterative patterns from the start with [b] and [k]: block-built criss-cross/ squared, echoed later: kerb/ skirting/ stockade/ cover/ bulwark bleached; also [l] laid and landscaped; [gr] ground/ grass; [w] Wafts of what;
  • A weave of velar plosive sounds [g] and [k] and alveolar [d]: goods/ Castledawson/ languid, clanking wagon;
  • assonant effects from the [ɒ]  and [ɪ]  compounds of line 1: brick-built criss-cross echoed in lived with; [i:] We/ breathed/ creosote/ bleached; [ɜː] verge/ skirting; ʊ]showed no; [ai] conspired/ I’d lie/ silence/ sky; [æ] languid, clanking wagon;
  • onomatopoeia from the soft sibilant of falling water ( washed) to footsteps  on gravel Flinch and crunch;:         

 

Anahorish 1944

  • assonant effects: [ɪ] and [ai] in tandem: killing pigs/ Americans/ morning/ arrived/ sunlight/ Outside; a chain of [ʌ]: us/ gloves/ coming/ guns./ Sunburnt/ Unknown, unnamed/ youngsters/ gum/ coloured interwoven with [əʊ] shoulders/ open/ Unknown/ hosting; [eə] Where/ headed/ there;
  • clusters of consonants: the [t] of ll.1-3; frequent [n] from l. 7;
  • rich in present participles that overall reinforce the irony: killing/ squealing alongside marching/ hosting;

To Mick Joyce in Heaven

1.

  • A sonnet; lines based around 6 syllables sometimes using enjambement to vary the rhythms; no formal rhyme scheme;
  • A single compound sentence with 2 dashes;
  • The first couplet uses the assonance of repetition; prominent [t] sounds echoed in later narrative; [ai] skylined; [ɪAchilles/ killer/ instead; [e] instead/ stretcher-bearers; [ei] bricklaying trade;                 
  • Alliterative effects: [sk] scaffold/ Achilles/ killer; [st] instead/ strongest/ stretcher;

 

2.

  • frequent use made  of mainly paired alliterations: Hod-hoplite ; watching/ wall; plumbing/ pointing/ pegged; course/ cornice; cement/ set; bedpanner, bandager; brass-buttoned drab;
  • assonances: [ai]  eye/ eye; rising and shining; [au]out/ foundation; [e] cement set/ Medical       

 

3.

  • Assonant effects: [əʊ] spoke/ folded/ No; spoke/ also [ei] strafed/ saved; bales; [ai]  piled/ time; [æ] blankets/ sandbags/ man to man
  • Alliterative use of [k] courses/ blankets/ like; [f] Fresh-folded; sexual allegations are whispered in a flurry of sibilants

 

4.

  • Sound effects: alliterative [w] weight/ what; [l] lift/ lozenges/ blade/ flash/ twirl/  -Fondly/ lightly; assonant:[ei] weight/ shaped/ Blade; [e] sever/ whenever/ sent, [æ] either nasal or not: had/ angle handle/ spanned/ hands;

 

5.

  • Before the colon the alveolar [t] sound is frequent followed by the [ɑː] [ɒ] combination of far off. The middle section brings a sonic weave of [æ] bilabial plosive [b] and alveolar plosive [d]: bedroom, bright/ A man and a woman/ backs/ bedhead;

The Aerodrome

  • top chefs stand out thanks to their ability to combine advanced cooking skills with the talent of experimenting with herbs, spices and vegetables so as to produce individual and memorable flavours. This poem shows the poet in a similar light as he sets up chains and weaves of sound and echo within the narrative:
  • Three initial quatrains that move via assonant [æ] and [ɑː] in chiasmus shape: back to grass and after that/ wartime in turn to [ɪit/ designated/ brickfield/ designated/ industrial/ rebuilt; into/ villa; Nissen; [ei] grey/ glazed;ʊcontrol/ CEO/ Aerodrome/ local; [uːToome/ to; To/ afternoon/ Toome; [ʌ] runway/ huts;[ai] wartime/ wire/ miles/ brighter;[ɒ] bomb/ forgotten/ gone/ not/ hot/ On; alliterative effects are discernible, for example[g] and [k] from the same part of the mouth: back/ brickfields/ control; aspirates: history/ hangars/ huts;
  • into v, 4 and beyond: alliterative effect of bi-labial plosive [b] bright booths/ brighter/ been/ bonnets/ beribbonned and continuant [w] Wherever the world was we were somewhere combined with vowel sounds [ɔː] All/ stalls/ Awnings/ gauds; fall/ Marauders/ compulsory order;
  • [ɪ] and [ai] perimeter/ like the fly-by-night/ flies/ rise; pilot/ slightest/ mine alongside [w] watched/ waited/ watching/ waiting/ wing/ would; [əʊ] go/ Thunderbolt/ only; cluster of [st] sounds: slightest/ stiffening/ standing; rhymes: ground/ around; stance/ distance and alliterative pairs:   location/ love/ Options/ obstinacies; dug/ distance;

Anything Can Happen

  • Paired initial sound effects: [æ] can happen; [e] Anything/ head; [au] clouds/ now accompany aspirates: happen/ how/ head/ he hurls;
  • [ɜː] earth/ underearth combines with [ɪ] as of it and emerging velar plosive [k]: cart/ clear/ shook/ clogged/ Styx/ Atlantic itself replaced by alveolar plosive [t] and [ð]: tallest towers/ those/ daunted/ those;
  • these in turn replaced by sibilants [s]: stropped/ Swoops/ gasp/ crest/ setting/ gives/  heaven’s lifts/ Atlas/ Capstones shift/ resettles/ spores with different vowel flavours: [ɔː] tallest/ daunted; [u] Fortune/ swoops; [i:] Be/ regarded/ beak/bleeding; [e] crest/ next; heaven’s/ kettle/ resettles; finally pairs of [ai] and [ʊə]: right/ fire-spores boil;        

Helmet

  • Assonant effects: [ɪ] his/gift/ in/ its/ brim/ Tinctures/ withered ; [e] spread/ sweat / better/ crest/ leather; a cluster of vowel [o] variants: oil/ sponge/ shock-absorbing/ crown; [æ] hand/ hand; [e] and [ɪə], alveolar sounds in sequence: helemet’s/ shelf/ twenty / years/ headgear ; [ai] and [ɪ] in combination over 6 lines: right heroic/ fireman/ it/ visiting fireman; if/ I/ it/ if / I/ time/ it,his fire-/ His/ while; ʊ] bolts/ hose/ broke;
  • Accompanying alliterative clusters: [b] Bobby Bteen’s/ Boston; absorbing/ webs; other consonant weaves: voiceless alveolar plosive [t] and dental fricatives [θ] and  [ð]Tinctures/ sweat/ withered/ beneath/ better/ crest/ Leather-trimmed/ steel/tooled; bilabial effects: Tipped/ bud/ beaten/ copper; alveolar [r]: right heroic/ afternoon/ fireman/ presented; voiceless post-alveolar fricative [ʃ] (sh) mimics the sound of falling materials: shield/ shoulder/ shattering/ shield; [h] hailed/ hatchet/ hose;

 

Out of Shot

  • The section preceding the 1st comma is a weave of [n] November morning sunshine/ unseasonably;[l] bell-clear/ elbows [ɒ] on/ lodged/ top [e] November/ bell/ elbows [i:] clear/ unseasonably (later gleams);
  • [ai] of sunshine  is picked up in livestock/ Viking/ night/ Irish;longside [ɪinspecting/ distant/ vik/ Wicklow/ thinking scriptorium; [ei]gate is echoed later in raids;
  • assonant so no; alliterative blue/ blackout  [ai] re-emerges: night/ five; repeated loosed/ loosed; [ɑː] cart/ bazaar/ wandering; final cluster of [ɒ] shot/ lost/ lost;
  • reference to blue/ blackout also implies the bruising when someone is beaten ‘black and blue’;         

Rilke: After the Fire

  • The 1st quatrain is a recipe of assonant flavours: [ɔː autumn morning/ Scorched/moorland/ more/ wallstead; [e] hesitated/ emptiness; [au]  crowding/ around/ house now; [ɪ] morning/ hesitated/ emptiness/ linden/ still/ in;      
  • St.2 introduces [ʌ] youngsters/ up/ Hunted; [y] youngsters/ yelled/ Yet [ai] wild/ silent; [k] pack/ forked stick carried into the next stanza: cab/ kettle/ like; examples of nasal [n];
  • St. 3 offers [au] out-/ house-/ doubtful resonant [t] and [z]  others present/ pains
  • The final stanza combinesʊso/ Pharoah; [ei] stranger/ changed; [æ] fantastical than; voiceless labio-dental fricative [f]: fantastical/ Pharoah/ foreigner;            
  • In dialogue with Denis O’Driscoll (Stepping Stones, Faber, p387) Heaney reveals his interest in  Rilke as a ‘ chance… re-immersion’.

 

District and Circle

1.

  • Before the volta the recurrent vowel sound is [ai]: I’d/ I/ I/ find/ tiles/ side eyes eying/ I’d; its neighbouring [ɪ] as in tin whistle occurs frequently; initial consonant sounds [t]  and [d] are later replaced by [k];
  • In the second section [k] remains  important alongside the [ɪ] of trigger and untrigger/ traffic/ recognition and [ei] capered/ gazed;  

 

2.

  • The first sentence uses 4 present participles;
  • Assonant [i:] dreamy links into the later narrative: We/ underneath/ gleamed; the[ai] of slight is echoed via quieted/ white tiles/ I/ light/ lunchtime to climax in delights;
  • The [əʊ] of posted echoes intermittently: flowed/ all-overing/ mown; clusters of [ɒ]: monotonous rocking and [ɪ]: overing/ since mysterious; [ʌ] lunchtime/ sunners;
  • The sonnet is very rich in sibilant [s] sounds;
  • Past participles/ preterite forms abound from initial Posted to staggered; engine is modified by a sequence of 5 each providing a different quality to the sound heard;       

 

3.

  • Recurrent assonant effects: [ʌ numbers/ strung/ pushy/ underneath/ succumbing/ unrepentant/ up/ full; [æ] platform/ straggle-ravelled; [ei] safety/ chain/ betrayed/ waiting/ train; [e] level/ entered/ betrayed/ / unreprentant/ repentant/ tremor/ then/ -never whelm/ length; pairs [au] crowd/ loud;
  • Recurrent consonants: alveolar [l] level/ straggle-ravelled/ Like/ jostling/ purling/ vault/ loud/ glad/ whelm/ length;
  • Repetitions of always/ (un)repentant;

         :

4.

  • sound effects: initially [ɒ] on to/ across/ on to combines with and is replaced by [æ] gap/ carriage/ grab/ black/ stand/ planted/ hand/ traction;
  • accompanying  [k] across carriage is superseded by [b] grab/ stubby/ black/ ball;
  • new sound flavours are added: [i:] reached/ heel/ heel/ sweet and [ei] stayed/ way; followed by [ɒ] on/ on/ spot; [uː]rooted/ aloof [ɔɪ] buoyed/ noises and a cluster of [ɪ] listening/  dwindling/ wished it;
  • the final couplets blend vowels [ai] times/ blindsided [ɔː] pause/ forwardness [ʌ] budge/ unwelcome/ readjusted/ other and consonant bi-labial [b] budge/ bodies/ Blindsided/ bodies

5.

  • The assonant [i:] rings at beginning, middle and end: deeper/ speed/ weeping; the first 2 couplets bring together [æ] strap-hanging/ a-swivel and [ei] flail/ glazed face/ waning/ craning peppered with sibilant [s] and [z] and alveolar plosive [t];
  • [ei]  of Again acts as a link into the centre section with its jumble of different actions that leaves iron on iron as a stand-alone effect;
  • the [ʊə] of through acts as a similar link into the final sentence that is rich in the sound [ɪ] as in relict and the culminating phrase Flicker-lit; further assonant echo of [ɜː] earth/ hurtled;

 

To George Seferis in the Underworld

    • assonant start couples [i:] greeny/ feet  [ai] rightly/ I with labio-dental consonant [f] stuff/ feet/ asphodel;
    • stanza 2  introduces different sound flavours adding assonant [ei] day/ days/ waves/ Cape/ name and [uː] Sounion/ boom/ you/ too,  [ʌ] utterly/ upon/ otherworldly/ somewhere just/ summit/ cutting to clusters of sibilant [s] and [z] consonants;
    • repeated –ly;
    • stanza 3: assonant [ai]  of light/ eyes/ later spikes/ tyrant’s; [e] of hell/ concentrate/ sceptre/ Herod’s giving way to  [æ] ha/ had A harrowing/ hackle- amidst a cluster of aspirant [h] ha/ had A harrowing/ hell/ hackle;  [ei] Plato/ fate/ flayed alongside [au] bound/ down with alliterative [fl] flung/ flayed/ flesh [θ] voiceless dental fricative thorny/ aspalathoi/ threw;
    • in stanza 4 assonant [ai]  recurs: right/ tyrant/ right/ white/ strike/ silence interwoven with [ɪstill/ i’/ if still/ ilk and alliterative alveolar [t];
    • the final lines feature [e] test/ edge/ seggans, dialect and [ɔː] hoar/ more amongst aspirant consonant [h] hoar/ harder/ hand-to-hand;             

 

Wordsworth’s Skates

  • Heaney fills this short piece with assonant echoes and chains: [ɪin/ window/ in / display/ its; [ei] Slate/ scrape/ display/ case; [ɑː] star/ branch; [ʌ] scud/ runners/ dust/ But/ clutch;   [ai] ice/ lying/ bindings; [i:]  steel/ reel/ mere;  [ɜː] Bird/ curve;
  • Alliterative effects;  sibilant [s] Slate/ scrape/ scud/ steel/ placid/ ice; bi-labial plosive [b] Bird/ branch/ bootless/ bindings; touches of [t]: bootless/ toppled/ dust/ perished; the potentially endless labio-dental fricative [ffffff] mimics the sound of skates: frozen/ flashed;

 

The Harrow Pin

  • assonant sounds  tercet (1) combines [əʊ] told/ old/ later harrow with [ei] behave/ kale later stake and [ɒ] nothing/ stocking; (2) adds  [ɪ] pin/ / veriest unit providing [sh] alliterative effects in a cluster of nouns: admonition/ correction’s/ aspiration/ instruction; [æ] harrow/ banged/ fang blends with [e] of meant/ correction/ veriest/ head/ dead and alliterative [f] forged fang and palatal nasal [ŋ] banged/ fang/ ringer;
  • stanza 3 echoes assonant [e] in pretence and in later tercets: let there/ any/ decoration/ shelf/ retort; rusted/ set /wrecked ;       
  • note also an[ɔː] chain following the –ion nouns: talk/ decoration/ for/ or/ retort/ -forced/ horse (5) alongside a cluster of [st] consonants  rusted/ stone/ stable;
  • (6) blends assonant  [ai] lined/ eye/ mighty with [e] sweat/ cobwebbed/ dead [ei] veined/ reins/ hames and [ɪticking/ winkers/ simple; [l] sounds collars lined/ tackle/ simple;
  • Heaney continues to ring the assonant changes in (7) using [ʌ] musts/ cut/ put/ ungulled;[ɪ]  re-echoes: piss/ Inside, in/ irreconcilable; the [e] of bedding/ test/ irreconcilable carries into (8) –sensed alongside [ʌ] Gulliver  and the new [u]/ [uːvirtue/ approved.                                                                      

 

Poet to Blacksmith

  • assonant [ei] will echo through the piece: Séamus / make/ take/ tastily/ trace/ blade/ strain/ straight/ complain/ plate/ shaped/ grain;
  • Further assonant effects in (1): [uːsuitable tool; [ʌ] grubbing/ cut; [ai] side-/ Lightsome/ right; [ɪdigging/ lift/ Tastily finished/ trim; consonant sounds: alveolar plosive [t] and sibilant [s];
  • in (2) further sibilant [s] and [ʃ]voiceless post-alveolar fricative [sh] show/ sheen/ purchase/ shaft (then in 3) shaped/ sharp/ shaft  alongside [ɪ] thing/ spring/ fit and [e] dead/ dead/ never (then in 3) edge/ well/ best;
  • in (3) return to [ai] I/  file/ line/ nicely, [ʌ] crooked/ wood, [ɪ] of wrinkly/ anvil/ fitted, and in the final line arranging [e] bell/ well [ɪ] with palatal nasal consonants [ŋ] thing/ ring around the most important adjective sweet.

 

Midnight Anvil

  • the chain of vowel sound [ɪ] as in and echoing Devlin occurs from second to final line;
  • emblematic midnight anvil ( the one of Devlin’s two anvils that emitted a melodic sound);
  • a chain of [e] as in and echoing Devlin is also strongly recurrent: there/ twelve/ millennium and so on
  • unusual use of unstressed [ə]:  Edmonton; [ai] in key words: midnight/ high/ smiling/ write;
  • cluster of [ʌ] in (4): ‘Huf! Puf! Lus, bus! / Such and alliterative nasal [n] of instead/  –burning/ noise/ nights / no one never    

 

Sūgàn

  • In (1) [ʌ] and sibilants [s] associate: fluster/ soft supply/ coaxed/ handfuls/ ruck/; then  alveolar plosive [t] and  [ɜː] combine: taken/ furl/ turned and tightened with alliterative [ɪ]  that mimics the sound of the process and comments on the dilapidation rickety and the provenance of the hay rick;
  • the composition of (2) into (3) blends consonants [w] walking backwards winding and [s] sag/ snag/short/ ends mesh with assonant [æ] sag and snag and [e] ends mesh/ left/ elderberry

 

Senior Infants – The Sally Rod

  • assonants:  [i:]  street/ reason/ Senior later she’d hear; echoing [ɪin/ in Infants/ winter’s/ Miss alongside sibilant [s] once/ winter’s/ Miss Walls, then [ʌ] cut/ us;
  • subtle use of preposition of ‘coming at’, potentially threatening until identity is established and unsteadiness and other body language interpreted: stick/ two wide open arms;
  • [ai] wide/ mind;

 

Senior Infants – A Chow

  • the title’s [au] of chow resounds through the piece: ounce/  brown/ mouth/  -out/ chow; the first 2 couplets are also flavoured by the variant sounds of the vowel [o];
  • the middle section combines assonant [ʌ] and [ɪ]: stuff, stripping/ dulse-thin/ unwrapped/ plug/ forbidden before adding alliterative bi-labial plosive [b] of Bog-bank brown, embossed/ forbidden/ buy and a cluster of [t] sounds; 
  • Heaney throws in the bibilical Old Testament reference to ‘forbidden fruit’ that Adam and Eve consumed against the will of God and were expelled from the Garden of Eden; the youngster’s training gives him a guilt-feeling: chewing tobacco was for men, not boys;
  • The 3 lines following the volta revel in the after effects of experimentation above all the hot, unbearable after-taste echoed in the [ɪ] sounds of lick/ grit/ spit;
  • the final 3 detail the unsavoury spit itself: still hot in taste and colour: ginger/ scorch/ flame; a short-lasting, shiny, viscous almost heraldic expectoration: quid-spurt fulgent.     

 

Senior Infants – One Christmas day

  • Despite his choice of prose, Heaney loses nothing the poet in himself. Close scrutiny reveals deliberate groups of assonant sounds, for example, the [ai] of the first and fourth

 

  • paragraphs, the [ɪ] sounds of para 4 and clusters of alliterative consonants, for example  alveolar plosive [t] in the final para.

 

The Nod

  • Assonant effects: the early couplets combine [i:] evenings/ we/ beef  with [ai] line/ white/ bow-tied and [au]  Loudans/ brown/counter/ down; alliterative effects based on variants of [s] particularly [st] stand/ string/ straight/ roast/ shin and so on;
  • [i:]  is added: neat/ clean/ seeping/ been with [e] dead/ Heavier/ expecting/ shelled: [s] seeping/ shelled; consonant [f] plus vowel [ɑː] far/ father;
  • after line 8 there are pairs or chains of assonant [uː] too/ duty; [ei] parading/ aimed/ place  and [ʌ unbuttoned but/ guns/ up/ couldn’t/ just; echoes of consonant [t] and [b];       

 

A Clip

  • the first sentence contains one repeat and one other echo [au] house/ our;
  • sound effects then multiply: assonant sounds [ɪclip/ snicking scissors/ inside, [i:] creeping, steel, mysteriousness / sheeted/ sleeveless/ near and [e] chair/ self/ neck-/ hoodless are peppered with voiceless velar plosive [k] between clip/ cold and Ku Klux cape;
  • the break is followed by a repetition; then [ʌ] unfamiliar/ enough/ up, accompanied by a strong assonant chain: [əʊ] road/ home/ shoulder/ open/ close/ blown/ nose amidst a flock of sound variants of the same vowel [o]
  • sense data: sight: the whole setting; sound: snicking scissors/ breathing; touch: Cold/ creeping steel; strong-armed; (air movement) breathing/ windfalls blown; smell (by association) bog-road;

 

Edward Thomas on the Lagans Road

  • Early assonant effects of [e] is carried through the piece step/  heads/ hedge/ Theresa Brennan later senses/ empty/ nest/ remembered/ long-legged self/ Edward/ Evans/ freckled/ said/ desert; also a pair of [ei] daisy/ Eamon/
  • Initial [əʊroad/ toes/ clothed/ go is interwoven with a cluster of [ɒ] strong/ gone/ on and [ai] quiet/ I/ rise/ light/ hillside where I lie; [ʌ] utter/ Until;
  • some alliteration: lovers/ long-legged self/ Lagans/ Leitrim/ freckled
  • sandy desert sand and ginger complexion;

 

Found Prose –  The Lagans Road

  • Heaney intuitively senses the moment for assonant and alliterative effects: description of the road’s surroundings: grass verges/ high hedges; marsh rushes/ little shrubs and birch trees; Phgilomena: Ginger hair, freckled face, green gymfrock – a fey; Indian folk-lore: cast-offs scattered; the classroom: place/ strange/ names.

Found Prose – Tall Dames

  • Heaney creates phrases that supersede mere prose: land of eros, glimpsed occasionally; woollen shawls, woven / patterns of tan; towards you out of storytime; spitting under a pot slung from a tripod; left open in the usual life.

Found Prose – Boarders

  • look out for moments when mere prose is given poetic flavouring: plump bags of coin/ ticket-punch a-dangle on its chain; the going’s good;  double-clutchings drag the heart; the labour of cut and spin; unfamiliar/ uninvolved.

The Lift

  • multiple rich and  varied groups and chains of vowel sound effects: [ɪLift/ in /filled; [i:] green/ later keeping/ deemed/leaf later gleam later still reprise/  griefs/ clearest; [əʊ] road/ old/ photograph/ remote/ own/open; [ʌ] could/ some; unstressed [ə] Breton/ pardon/ women; [ɔː] walking/ four/ falling; [ɒ] throttle/ whops/ helicopter crossing; [au] sound/ our; [ai] life behind later wild/ like behind/ lifetime/ deathtime childhood/ kindness end-of-piece sight/ lightly/ final; [eə] air/ haired/ breath/ deathtime; later deaths; [ɔɪ] alloy/ joy/ tallboy; [ɜː] certain/ birdtable/ birds; [e] weather end requiems/ friends; [ei] say/ say/ may;
  • occasional alliterative effects: hawthorn half; half photograph; shaking/ sweating/ shrunk; beaten breath/ misting mask; gleam/ glass; together/ together; declaration deemed; bore/ bier;
  • oxymoron: remote/ Familiar; onomatopoeia: whops copies the sound of rotor blades revolving;

 

Nonce Words

  • In (1) assonant [ɜː] Words/ turned [ai] bypass/ sign / I; end-of-line [ei] taken/ mistaken; [i:] east links with reed in (2); alveolar plosive [t] evident
  • the lyricism of (2) offers a weave of  [ai] ice, White iron/ silence [ʌ]Sun/ bush and [ɒ] of Nonce on/ on  [æ] cast/ Advent/ across; sibilant [s]  recurs in (2);
  • in (3) ; [i:] re-echoes: breathing/ screen/ requiescat : bi-labial consonant sounds in number: [p] [b] and [w]; [ɪ] in/ mist/ windscreen;
  • happed: colloquial usage for ‘wrapped’ in appropriate outerwear;
  • in (4) s of vowel [o] stood frozen/ shore horizon/ stop  [ai] rimed horizon/ like;
  • in (5) multiple repetition as in enumeration  of  and its palatal nasal echoed in other words name/ nonce/ happenstance; chain of sibilants: blessed myself/ nonce/ happenstance/ knows/ nexts/ its;

 

Stern

  • sound effects in (1): [ai] like/ I/ like; [i:] Meeting/ he/ quay/ Queen carried into (2): seems/ pierhead/ me; alliterative bi-labial effect of [w]: What was/ When watching/ slowly/ Now/ watching/ watching/ rows/ wooden/ headway; also [st] end-stopped stern; triple verbs of effort, light and movement: Labours/ shimmers/ dips;       

 

Out of This World – Like Everybody Else

  • assonant chains: [ai] Like/ I/ wine/ eyes/ later myself/ I/ undying; [ei] raised/ raised change/ rails/ place; combination of assonant [ɒ] and alliterative velar plosive [k]:  loss occurred off-stage/ I cannot; [e] felt/ There was never/ when/ bread/ tremor combining with bilabial continuant consonant [w]: draw like well-water; [au] initial bowed later echo out/ disavow/ down;

 

Out of This World – Brancardier

  • Sound effects in (1): [i:]  brancardier/ steam/ Loaghaire/she; [ɪ] pilgrim in; the locomotion  is accompanied by a series of  percussive [d] sounds; [æ] Alacoque That;
  • In (2) alveolar [l] Lourdes/ learning/ learning; assonant [i:]  Paris(ee)/ merci/ oui;
  • In (3) repeated gone;  French endingsdental ‘y’ [j]  and [ei] brancardier/ bandolier/ (lyay);chain of velar plosive [k]: quoi/ quoi/ brancardier/ coloured; alveolar [l]: lift and lay; sibilant variations: sick/ stretchers/ precincts/ shrine;
  • Varied [a] sounds: await/ bath/ And always/ hangs/; pairs: [eə] air/ prayers; [i:]  bleak/ near; chains: [ʌ] crutches hung up/ under; plosive [k] bleak concrete/ cure/ crutches;
  • [i:] sounds in (5): dungarees/ carrying; Sodalities/ rosaries; alliterative pairings: miners/ March; Sodalities/ sashes; poles and pennants;
  • In (6) the Latin accusative feminine endingsunam sanctam catholicam make for a true acoustic; near assonance of meant [e] reinforcement[ə]; chain of alliterative [k] sanctam Catholicam acoustic/ concrete; in (7) variable ‘ou’ sounds: Eleusis [u]; brought [ɔː]; shoulderʊ];  Lourdes[ʊə]; alliterative sibilant [s] with alveolar [t]: plastic/ shoulder strap (très chic)/ Lourdes water; assonant [əʊdome/ englobed;
  • In (7) alliterative labio-dental fricative [v]: Of the Virgin above and bi labial plosive barefoot Bernadette; assonant [əʊsnow/ grotto; [ai] like white; [ɪVirgin/ it/ liquid/ certificate; [e] feathers/ stretcher-bearing;

 

Out of This World – Saw Music

  • the predominant assonant effect is  [ai] echoing the key-word cries:more than 15 examples between brightness (l.2) and might in the penultimate line; (1) also uses [ei] paint/ rayon/ draper’s [e] begun/ vents/ heaven/ stretched; [i:] beams/ sheets; alliterative chains are mainly sibilant [s]: brightness/ stretched sheets/ silk/ style draper’s/ Airslides/ scrims And scumble/ sift overlapping into 2; the sibilant  link continues, interweaving assonant [ʌ] sludge and smudge/ shower/ puddles and adding to the  [ɪ] chain of scrims/ sift with spirit’s winnowing;
  • 7 enjambed lines carry the narrative from (2)  into (3) with similar weave of alliterative and assonant effects of [ɪ Christmas/ inside/ in /display/ tinselled/ blinking with sibilants Belfast/ Christmas/ inside/ shop/ display Of tinselled stuffs and sleigh bells; (5) offers the onomatopoeic [ɒ] of Flop- wobble  and [i:] link from (4: )steel/ Vaselined/ banshee: consonant alveolar plosives [t] and [d are frequent in both (4) and (5); Stanza 6 features the echo of [i:] greased teeth alongside sibilant[s] and [k] caresses/ crossed/ across; canvas/ cries/ expressed and assonant [ʊə] daubs/ paltry;
  • the final 5 lines introduce assonant [au] out/ renounced, however peppered with consonant [v] and [w] sounds;

In Iowa

  • In (1) a weave of assonant [ai] Iowa/ Mennonites/ wiper’s; [ɪ] in/ blizzard/ glit/ pelting/ windscreen/ flits amidst voiced and unvoiced alveolar fricatives [s] once/ Mennonites etc. and [z] blizzard/ wiper’s/ absolving;
  • (2) introduces [əʊopen/ snow/ mowing/ spoked and [i:] field/ seat/ heaped each/ wheel alongside previous assonances; alliterative effects: bilabial [w] where wilted/ snow/ mowing// wheel/ brow and velar plosive [k] corn stalks/ spoked/ thick/ took/ black;
  • following the break,  a cluster of words with archaic ‘biblical’ cachet: verily (13th century Middle English verray – true real, from Latin ‘verus); came forth/ wilderness/ unbaptised/ darkness/ third hour (3am);
  • final couplet voiced and unvoiced alveolar fricatives [s] and [k] in tandem with assonant [ʌ]: once/ slush/ rush/ hiss/ but/ as of rising waters;         

Höfn

  • Sound effects. In sentence (1) [i:] three/ we/ deep/ aeon; [əʊboulder/ wallowing; [ai] miles/ ice; alliterative effects of [wh] aspirated what/ when; unaspirated [w] we/ wallowing; [m] miles/ makes;
  • Compounds in line 6: alliterative grey-gristed  contains notions of colour, stuff ground (grist) and grinding materials (grit); earth-pelt ice stretched like a layer of skin; aeon-scruff roughness, the age of the universe;
  • Final lines contain assonances:[ɪə] undead/ breath; [i:] feared/ seemed/ Deepfreeze/ seep [ɔː] warm mouthwatering  [ɪwindow dimmed/ tilth  [æ] adamantine and alliterative effect: [w]  warm mouthwatering word;     

 

On the Spot

  • sound effects in approximate order and frequency: alliterative start [k] cold clutch alongside assonances: [əʊcold/ whole/ mould/ stone/ later polar/ stone; [uːknew/ dew; [e] nestful/ death sweat/ there/ hedge; alliterative [s/ z] variants: nestful/ last year’s/ -ness/ sweat/ so/ shine/ shells/ riser/ busy;
  • ʌ] under/ But/ sudden/ stud; reprise of [s] stud/ stigma/ stone; [ai]  mortified right/ conspired; bi-labial plosive [p] proof positive; [æ] hand/ addle Matter/ planetary stand; the [ɒ] of the title: positive Of/ conspired on the spot/ -off;      

 

The Tollund Man in Springtime

1.

  • Sound effects in sentence (1): principal sonic echoes [ai] Springtime/ I’ll/ time/ neither;[i:]  screens/ seeding/ neither spreadfield; [ɒ Tollund/ god nor / Not/ odds/ lost;  [ʌ] Tollund/ Un registered/ under/ sphagnum/ rust; [e] registered/ / kesh/ dead/ spreadfield/ red; alliterative effects: [sk]   scans/ screens; [g] god/ ghost; [y] you and yours; sibilant [s] to echo the sound of water: seeding grass/ trickles of kesh/ phagnum moss; [r] red as rust;
  • Sentence (2): alliterative [r] reawoke/ revel/ spirit/ strengthened; (e) revel/ strengthenedʊ–woke/ chose/ own;
  • Final sentence: [ai] snipe/ twilight/ awry/ quietened; [ɪpanicked/ -ing/ into/ in; alliterative sibilants: sixth-sensed/ snipe offshooting;

 

2.

  • assonant effects: [ɒ] scone/ composite/ bog reintroduced after (l.9) sod/ Got/ once/ God/ bog-bodied;ʊdough/ though/ whole/ slow/ smoke/ so; [ai] like/ dry/ later plied/ like/ unatrophied; [uːthrough/ flue/ sinew/ [ə] ashless flameless; [e] spread/ dead/ breath/ then/ felt/ breath/ bare;[æ] trampled/ slabbed/ ashless/ last line And/ last/ unatrophied  [ɜː] turned/ burn/ reintroduced later turned turf; [ei]         
  • consonant effects: [s] slabbed and spread/ sun; smoke/ sullen/ swamp-/ spade/ slid/ soughed; [b] breath/ bog-bodied/ brown and bare;                                                           

 

3.

  • Initial [e] [h] combination heavy head and alliterative Bronze-buffed give way to [au] ground/ brow [e] level/ leg/ felt/ when; later meant [f] turk/ phantom/ felt/ fleshily and [əʊ shoulder/ pillowed/ mould; [ɪ] becomes persistent: lid/ pillowed/ fleshily/ pith/ buried/ unburied; [m] custer in line6  [i:]  initial cheek is echoed later: me/ me/ between/ between   [ɪə] years/ hear; cluster of consonant [b] in mid-piece; [ei] initial weighed/ lay in wait/ waited/ faith placed/ faithless/ Danish; rhyme stone/ sown;

 

4.

  • assonant and alliterative effects prior to the volta: alliterative sibilants: soul/ exceeds/ circumstances. Yes [i:] exceeds/ peat later heal; [ɑː] circumstances/ granted/ last; [ei] claim/ case/ staying/ spade; [w] webbed wrists  [ɪhistory/ display/ wrists/ silver/ skin;  [ɔː] sward/ restored; later swarmed
  • after line 8: [ei] late/ hay/ daisied/ away; strong presence of sibilant consonants: still sang/ still/ daisied sky/ smelled/ exhaust fumes, silage and through to the final line of the piece flights stacked [u] new/ fumes/ blue; [e] meadow/ smelled/ heather bed; [ai] sky/ silage/ five/ flights; [ɪ] earlier skin/ thickened echoed in thickened traffic transatlantic; and [æ] sang/ transatlantic;        
  • paired opposites: Late/ early/ old/ new;                        

 

5.

  • Sentence (1) provides a blend of assonant and alliterative features:[s] solid standing / readiness; [ei] rain/ wait/ kale/ tail heavyweight; [e] readiness/ wet/ head/ shedding/ every/ heavyweight/ bear; [ɒ] knowledgeable/ solid; [w] wet/ washy/ water; [ʌ dumb beast sunk above/ sludge and puddle; later Bulrush; [k] kale/ flanks/ sunk; [æ] trampled gaps
  • cloot: dialect word for part of or all of a beast’s cloven hoof;
  • sentence (2): [n] another/ un learnable carried into final sentence: Newfound contrariness/ lines/ points; weave of  [ai] and [f] : wired far-faced smilers;    

 

6.

  • Vocabulary of decline and disintegration: musty/ friable/ withered/ limp/ soggy/ dust;
  • The first 2 sentences combine alliterative [k] check/ scan/ carried and weave of bilabial plosives [d] [d] and [æ] bunch/ Bagged/ bog-damp/ Broom with chains of [uːThrough/ roots/ Broom and of [ʌ] bunch of Tollund rushes/ cupboard/ until/ musty;
  • line (6) rings a change: assonant [i:]  green/ weed leaf [ɪskinned/ withered/ / limp; [au] drowned –mouse accompany paired [k] skinned stalk; frank/ bouquet ; [əʊwhole/ mould;
  • the question combines [ʌ] dust/ dust with a percussive sequence of [ɪ] mix it in with spit in alongside varied sibilants [s] dust/ nostrils; should/ shake; mix/ spit/ pollen’s carried into the final lines: As/ straightened, spat/ hands/ spirited myself/ street alongside a cluster of plosive [t] cutting turf; straightened, spat/ hands; felt benefit; spirited;        

Moyulla

1.

  • Assonance [əʊthose/ flowed/ coldness/ clothes; later shallows/ sowings [ɪlick/ quick  [u] you moves  [æ]  gravel shallows are interwoven with alliterative chains: alveolar plosive [k] black-lick quick; coldness/ clothes; sibilant variants: she swim/ herself/ shallows swarmed/ sowings/ tarnished/ pools;

 

2.

  • [ai] I/ cry; [ɜː]her/ purls/ blurred;  [ʌ] suffered muddying; variants of vowel [o];
  • Alliterative combined cluster: sibilant [s] with voiced and voicefless bilabial plosives:[p] and [b]: purls/ pebbles/ slicked and blurred                 

3.

  • assonant effects: [ɪ milk/ river/ discharge/ gidsome; unstressed [ə] gidsome flotsam; [æ] bank/ ankle-grassed/ glad; [ɔː] saw it all; [i:] fevered/ beestings/ creamery/ cleanly/ trees;
  • alliterative pairings: [f] Fevered/ froth; [m] gidsome flotsam; [b] barefoot/ bank; blettings beestings; [k] cleanly/ comely;

 

4.

  • marked assonant chains [e] Step/ fresh/ step/ getting/ her/ ready/ let; [ɪinto/ bib/ countering, parting, getting ; also [i:] stream/ deepest;
  • consonant clusters: [f] for/ fresh-faced [s] deepest, draggiest purchase;
  • use of present participles;

Planting the Alder

***

Tate’s Avenue

  • Stanza (1) assembles the following sound ingredients:[i:] sea/ breathing/ sepia; [ɒ] Not/ one/ on/ comfort/ coloured; [e] spread/ breaths/ vestal/ edged;ʊ] folds unfolded/ zone; [dʒ] Edged/ fringe; the main alliterative effect is sibilant [s]: first/ spread/ sand/ sea/ breaths/ vestal/ sepia/ tails;
  • [ɒ] is carried into (2):not/ one/ olive/ torrents/ got/ corrida as is [əʊ] stones; renewed sibilants sounds scraggy/ crusts/ eggshells/ stones/ cheese/ salami/ rinds/ torrents are replaced by velar plosive [k]: crusts/ Guadalquivir/ drunk/ corrida
  • [ʌ] crusts/ drunk and [ai] rinds from(2) link into stanza (3): Sunday/ dust/ turned/ nothing/ rug; and high/ silent; [ɑː] is introduced: park/ Belfast/ yard; alliterative sibilants Sunday/ Belfast/ dustbins and so on  mingle with alveolar [t] instead/ locked/ dust etc and velar [k] [g]:  locked/ back; finger/ nothing gives/ rug;
  • The final stanza offers assonant [e] length/ felt/ sensed/ ever/ never/ measure and pairs of [uːthrough/ moved  and [æ] plaid/ had; alliterative effects of alveolar [l] lay/ length/felt/ lumpy/ plaid and bi-labial [m] moved/ measure/ mine;                        

A Hagging Match

  • Sound effects mainly assonant:[æ]  Hagging Match/ Axe; [uːthrough/ you/ hew/ to [ai] outside/ night/ firewood ;        

 

Fiddleheads

  • Sound effects: Heaney runs with the [ɪ] sound of the title Fiddleheads/ delicious things I think/ erotic/ frilled/ infolded/ little alongside it the variant (i) sound  [ai] Ireland/ surprised/ tenderized       

 

To Pablo Neruda

  • The piece is an excellent example of  sonic composition:
  • Stanza (1) picks up assonant suggestions from the tile; [æ] Pablo Neruda/ Tamlaghtduff; crab-apple/ crabs repeated [e] Neruda/ jelly/ never; alliterative effects are produced by paired [dʒ] jar/ jelly followed by a weave of alveolar [k] Tamlaghtduff/ repeated crab and its voiced partner alveolar [d, all the Duffs] [g] grew/ grows; fricative [f] Tamlaghtduff/ Fitzduff/ off/ Duff’s; the stanzas enjambed lines and use of dashes illustrates the pause require for memory to intercede in the middle;
  • in (2 ) unusual [i] sound of Contrary, unflowery precedes a cluster of [ɪwhisk/ bristle/ twig; reprise of {k} contrary/ sky-whisk/ crabbed/ could; two pairs rhyme;
  • the [e] of remembered is picked up after line 15: then/ when/ freshets; breasting/  smelling/ nettles; a peal of assonant variants on vowel (o) brings together[əʊ] O/ Pablo/ old/ road/ smoulder/ own with[ɔː] orbs/ stalks; [au] rounds/ cow; [ɒ foxgloves/ of;
  • the same section up to line 30 offers a cluster of alveolar [s] [t] tasted/ stuff/ freshets/ orbs/ eyes/ stalks overtaken by alveolar [r] freshets/ rutted cart road/ rounds/ district/ breasting itself overtaken by sibilants culminating in summer’s smoulder/ ascendant; less stressed (o) sound  [ʌ] of summer’s/ under/ -duff is replaced by the stronger [əʊ]: corona of gold and  [ai] hindsight; cluster of participles –ing;
  • the final sentence replays [əʊ]:home/ crossroads/ no tomorrow introducing [au] now/ round/ crowd/ now/ down alongside  [ʌ] in tandem with alveolar [t] [d] taste-bud/ tear-duct and [e] melt/ spread/ jelly/ there;         

 

Home Help – Helping Sarah

  • The enjambments and contingent flow of the first sentence contrast with multiple semi-colons in stanza (2); the end of (1)  summarises: And a credit;
  • Stanza (1) begins with alliterative pairings: tuck and tightening; vigorous advance; young year; these give way to sibilants: rigs/ same/ skirt/ brogues/ she straightened; limited assonant effects[au] blouse/ out; [e] every credit;
  • In (2) [e] is carried through: red/ yellow/ thread/ step/ sped; injection of paired [i:] oatmeal tweed, ʊopen/ closed  and [ɜː] earth’s work/ word; minor alliterative effects using [t] oatmeal tweed/ pinpoints;

               

Home Help – Chairing Mary

  • In (2) aspirates return: Her/ heat had/ hold/ hoisting alongside assonant [ei] braced/ take/ weighted; bilabial pairing [b] bearing the brunt also[w] weighted/ one/ lower/ one; stages marked by use of present participles –ing; these verbs can be extended in time to mimic the deliberate care of the stages;
  • Stanza (3) is in two poetic halves: the first focuses on the emotional interchange of an otherwise physical challenge using [ɜː] averting/ hurting; the final couplet contains the personal affection Mary was held in and the Heaney family’s respect (Bent to) and sadness at her passing;
  • Vocabulary of life and death: warm/ cold; final alliterative [k] kissed/ kissed/ cold;    

 

Rilke: The Apple Orchard

  • Sound effects in (1): [ʌ] come/ just/ sun; [ɒ] gone/ watch/ not/ long; [i:] deepening/ green/ evening [ɔː] sward/ stored; [au] down/ ourselves; alliterative effects centre round sibilants: just/ sun/ sward/ stored/ ourselves/ something with touches of velar plosive [g] gone/ green/ garnered;
  • Stanza (2) runs with extended vowel inflections [i:] feeling/ feeling/ these and [ɑː] half/ dark alongside the more percussive [ɪfeeling/ inner/ infused/ issues/ windfall and [u] new/ infused/ issues; a chain of alliterative fricative [f]: feeling/ from/ half-forgotten/ from/ infused alongside aspirate [h] of hope/ half;
  • In (3) variant sound of vowel (u)  inter-react[ʌ]  with  [u]: under woodcut/ husbandry/ until; Dürer/ pruned/ fruit; then vowel (e) variants: [i:]  trees/ trees/ replete [ɪə] years/ appears; [e] pendent/ ready/ patience; alveolar [r] flickers through the text: here/ trees/ Dürer/ pruned/ husbandry/ years/ gravid/ fruit appears/ ready/ rooted;
  • assonant [e] is carried through into the final stanza: knowledge/ measure/ expectation; injection of [i:] yielded/ cleavesand[ɪwillingly/ willed/ in; alliterative alveolar [l] is dominant: knowledge/ all/ yielded/ long life willingly Cleaves/ willed/ resolve                       

Quitting Time

  • there is a sonic rhyme scheme based on consonant sounds [m] [t] and [k] each produced in a different part of the mouth;
  • The first sentence assembles assonants [əʊhosed/ farrowing/ immobile [i:] concrete/ pleases/ cleaned;  [ɪ] kills/ its immobile; [ai] while/ light/ time; [ei] wait/ pails/  crate; touches of consonant [w] wait/ while/ farrowing/ elsewhere; alliterative [k]: concrete/ kills/ cleaned-up/ crate/ cast;
  • the [e] of elsewhere in sentence (1) is echoed in sentence (2): wet/ end; reprise o [i:] means/ repeat/ reaches; assonant injections: [ai] time/ Shine/ light; [ei] place/ phrase; variant vowel (o) sounds: more; look; most; often/ off ; alliterative effects mainly front-of-mouth; bilabial [m] more/ more/ means most to him alveolar [l] last look/ place/ light and [t] last/ most/ repeat/ light/ often/ little;
  • the final sentence: ass/all night after nightness (the ‘routine’ phrase ‘night after night’ turned into a noun); sibilant [s]: -ness/ song/ steel/ starts; [ei] same/ gate;          

 

Home Fires – A Scuttle

  • Sound effects in stanza (1) reflect activity and pain: title sounds: recurrent [əʊHome/ coals/ so/goes/ jolt/ bone; also [ai] Fires/ iron/ pile [ɜː] of Wordsworth echoed in Ashburner; [ʌ] Scuttle young/ shovel/ up/ unremarked;  new injections: [ɪjig-jigging; superseded by variant (a) sounds: accentuating the toothache with ablaze/ name: [æ] jag Backstabs; audible groans can be heard in the hurting bones: wrist/ neck/ jaw; alliterative pairs or clusters: [j] [k] [b]; accretion of ‘agony’ monosyllables in line 6;
  • Stanza (2) depicts the old Dorothy [əʊdoting/ go/ road; introducing subtly variant sounds of vowel (o): companion/ gone/ foot/ for/ sounded/ once/ dropping/ board; injection of [ʌ] unlistened/ plump/ shut/ scuttle and [æ] as/ flap / stacked/ arrival;
  • decline in life is accompanied by use of enjambments that slow the pace;

Home Fires – A Stove Lid

  • The beginning repeats the assonant/ alliterative effects of the epigraph: mass and majesty; [æ] re-echoes in compass/ cast;
  • variant (i)sounds of (1 )link into sentence (2): [ɪ] blink/ lid with lifter/clink/ fit; [ai] I/ iron with Isle; what follows is an intricate recipe of new sound ingredients: [ʌ] youngster/ loved; [ei]  made/ stainless/ weight/ danger; [ɔː] claw/ bore/ For/ maw; ʊ] hold/ stove/ stoked/ stowed; [ɒ] hot solidus; alliterative [l] loved a lifter; stainless steel; claw/ clink; echoes of [f] [s] and [n];
  • Clink-fast: ingenious compound to express a locking sound;
  • The final 5 lines offer assonant variant (o) sounds: So/ tote; one/ stopper; more/ mouth superseded by [ei] replace/ safely/ rake/ again [ai] time/ die  ʊpoked/ coal; [ɑː] sparks/ dark;
  • Alliterative effects: alveolar [t] time/ tote it/ stopper/ flat then [r] replace/ rake/ rattle finally [k] rake/ sparks/ poke/ dark/ coalhouse;                                

 

The Birch Grove

  • The first sentence runs with the plosive consonants of the title: [g]  and especially [b]: Birch/ back/ baths/ bake/ abbey/ broken; recurrent [r] sound;
  • Assonances are achieved using a blend of variant (a) sounds: [æ] back/ abbey/; [ɑː]       garden/ baths/ planted; [ʊə] water/ corner walled; floored [ei] bake; unstressed [ə] Roman;
  • The second sentence (‘planted – abbot’s’) interweaves [i:] recently/ each/ she/ tea/ time-keeping ʊ] only/ own/ grown [ʌ] puts/ sun/ -up/ suffuses/ up [ai] Like/ white/  nightdress  [uːcool/ suffused; [æ] across/ dandles a sandal/ as an abbot’s; alliterative effects achieved by clusters of [l] [s] [t] [b];
  • The final sentences shift from medieval look-alike to modernity; the [ei]of straightens is echoed in slate/ retain/ jet trail/ tapers/ waves; clusters of ] brick/ credibility/ is making/ willow; [i:] tree/ CD/ teaches; the unstressed [ə] common/ garden; a pair of [ai] life/ private; alliterative [w] waves/ willow/ wand;

 

Cavafy: “The Rest…”

  • Sentence 1 provides in-line echoes: pro-/ scroll (/most); true beautiful; Sophocles/ philosophical edged with final [ʌ] proconsul/ beautiful/ philosophical;
  • The following sentence offers [ʊə] talk/ more; [i:] we’ll/ seen/ we carried in to (3) Here we’re/ secret/ completely; [e] sentries/ every/ let;
  • The ] of the sophist’s reply recurs is/ if/ things; paired [ai] smile/ like and [ɔː] talk/ all;  alliterative sibilant effect is overtaken by [t] and dental fricative [ð] That/ there/ they / bothered;

 

In a Loaning

  • the [əʊ] of the title recurs: Spoken/ boles; [i:] speech/ beechen green/ these shin/deep/ these beech; [ei] way/ again/ gave; [ai] I/ cry/ fired; [ɒ] coffers/ copper;        

 

The Blackbird of Glanmore

  • Stanza (1) echoes the [ɜː] of the title Blackbird/ first; followed by ] and [ai] in tandem I arrive/ filling/ stillness; life/ In/ ivy/ I; loose rhyme move/ love ;
  • In (2) the initial alliteration park, pause is followed by repetition of [b] and [i:] breathe echoing heed; full stops and 4 consecutive enjambments dictate the rhythm of the stanza;
  • Stanza (3) sound effects: [ɒ] one gone/ lost/ cavorting alongside other (o) variants [ʌ]       son/ brother; ʊso/ home/ homesick/ over; [u] through;
  • In (4) recurrent nasal variant: think/ neighbours/ long/ yon/ on/ nothing/ never; assonant [ɜː] words/ bird;
  • Startling alliterative [k] is strong in (5): automatic lock; with [ʌ] clunks shut; black-/ panic; strong sibilants: [s] and [sh]; limited assonance:
  • Final section begins with alliterative aspirates hedge-hop and assonant [u] absolute/ you and other front-of-mouth sounds: bilabial [b] absolute/ talkback/ comeback; labio-dental fricatives [f] -offish and [v] nervy/ ivy blending with [i:] each/ beak/ leave;                

 

Standard English sounds and their phonetic symbols as used in footnotes below commentaries:

Vowels

[ɪ        pit/ did

[e]          press/ bed/ said

[æ]        clap/ bad

[ɒ]          tot /odd

[ʌ]         cut/ love / must

[ʊ]          foot /good/ pull

[i:]         fleece/ please

[ei]         face/ cake/ break

[ai]           price/ try/ trial

[ɔɪ]         voice/ toy

[uː         loose/ lose/  two

ʊ        moat/ show

[au]         south /now

[ɪə]          hear/ here

[eə]         square/ pair

[ɑː]          start/ rather

[ɔː]          bought/ law

[ʊə]         poor /jury

[ɜː]          curse / flirt

[ə]           about common

[i]            happy radiate

[u]           you situation

Consonants

and where they are formed in the mouth

[p] voiceless bi-labial plosive

[b] voiced bi-labial plosive

[t] voiceless alveolar plosive

[d] voiced alveolar plosive

[k] voiceless velar plosive

[g] voiced velar plosi

[tʃ]  voiceless alveolar fricative as in church match

[dʒ] voiced alveolar fricative as in judge age

[f] voiceless labio-dental fricative

[v] voiced labio-dental fricative

[θ] voiceless dental fricative      as in thin path

[ð] voiced dental fricative as in this other

[s] voiceless alveolar fricative

[z] voiced alveolar fricative

[ʃ]voiceless post-alveolar fricative as in  ship sure

[ʒ]  voiced post- alveolar fricative as in pleasure

[h] continuant

[m] bi-labial nasal

[n] alveolar nasal

[ŋ] palatal nasal as in       ring/ anger

[l] alveolar approximant

[r] alveolar trill

[j]  dental ‘y’ as in
Heaney provides a  music pleasing to the ear.

Singing scored music brings an awareness of a code of letters, abbreviations and signs that can be placed above or below the notes to indicate or modify the ways in which a piece is performed. When the human voice becomes an instrument, then in terms of volume: f tells us to sing the next phrase loudly; ff to sing it very loudly; p softly; mp a little less softly; cresc (crescendo) tells us to sing the phrase increasingly loudly, and so on. Other words interpret the tempo: rallentando says gradually slow down the phrase’. Other signs tell us to emphasise a word or to pause for an instant. Others advise on the sound: sad or harsh, light or sweet or slowly dying away. Without expression marks the piece would be monotonous and boring.

The same code should be applied to a poem by its reader. After all, poems are songs that, when read aloud, cry out for individual dynamics. Heaney actually uses specific musical terms in The Rain Stick published in The Spirit Level collection of 1996 (diminuendo, scales [un]diminished) but, of course, he does not provide coded recommendations alongside the text. Musicians do this but, apart from ictus accents and some aspects of sprung-verse, poets do not.

It is the words and phrases themselves and the way they are punctuated that invite variations of timbre, modulation and cadence and by reciting them with dynamics in mind, the reader can turn each poem into a linguistic ‘event’!

Heaney is a composer who uses words instead of notes.

Forms and Rhymes

The Turnip Snedder

  • 10 couplets divided into 2 sentences; The couplets vary dramatically in length and rhythm through a combination of punctuation and enjambed lines; overall the rhythms suggest the continuous but varying speed of the manually operated handle;
  • Without a formal rhyme scheme the poem is rich in assonant and alliterative effects;

 

A Shiver

  • the sonnet has discernible rhymes abcd/ abcd in its first 8 lines: ‘sledge’ – ‘sledge’, ‘fast’ – last; waist – ‘rest’; ‘cage’ – ‘rage’; these disappear after the volta; .

 

Polish Sleepers

  • A sonnet based on lines of 10 syllables in 2 sentences; no formal rhyme scheme;

 

Anahorish 1944

  • Sonnet length; no formal rhyme scheme ;the volta occurs in line 9 moving from direct observation to the anonymity and the deeper implications;
  • lines of varying length form up to 7 complete sentences;

 

To Mick Joyce in Heaven

  • (1) A sonnet; lines based around 6 syllables sometimes using enjambment to vary the rhythms; no formal rhyme scheme; a single compound sentence with 2 dashes;
  • (2 )A sonnet; lines based around 6 syllables sometimes using enjambment to vary rhythm and pace; no formal rhyme scheme;
  • (3 A sonnet; lines based between 4 and 6 syllables; four consecutive enjambed lines; no formal rhyme scheme; 5 complete sentences; break at line 8;
  • (4) A sonnet; lines based on 6 syllables; three complete sentences; break after line 7;
  • (5) A sonnet; lines based on 6/7 syllables; three complete sentences; break after line 9;

 

The Aerodrome

  • eight 4-line stanzas without a formal rhyme scheme; ample use of enjambed lines ensures variety of rhythm and flow in oral delivery; up to a dozen sentence units including colons;

Anything Can Happen

  • Four quatrains, lined based around 10 syllables; no formal rhyme scheme but rich use of alliteration and assonance;

 

Helmet

  • 7 tercets with lines of widely varying length; in 2 main units with sub-sections; strong use of enjambed lines gives the narrative its own impetus;

 

Out of Shot

  • Sonnet in three main sections; lines based around 10 syllables; no formal rhyme scheme;10 of the 14 lines are enjambed and other punctuation is in mid-line;

 

Rilke: After the Fire

  • 4 quatrains based on lines of 10 syllables;  no rhyme scheme;
  • 4 successive enjambed lines in the 1st sentence; 2 more before the semi-colon; 3 sentences of diminishing length at the end, the last summing up the feelings that the man is left with;

District and Circle

  • (1) Sonnet form; break after 7 and a half lines; line-length based on 10 syllables;    There is a ‘relaxed’  rhyme scheme in the 1st half: aabbcxc; then nod/ nod of the final couplet; further multiple use of enjambment with mid-line commas mimics the continuous but interrupted movement along the tunnel;
  • (2) Sonnet form; break after 8 and a half lines as the poem moves from underworld ‘blues’ to anticipation of release; based on 10  syllable lines; no rhyme scheme; enjambed lines and mid-line punctuation offer variety to oral delivery;
  • (3) Sonnet form, split 7/6; lines based upon 10 syllables; sub-sections: arrival (1line); description of the new scene (6 lines); a question emanating from a previous incident (1 line); self-questioning interrupted by arrival of Tube train (5 lines);
  • (4) Sonnet; break at the semi-colon; lines based on 10 syllables; starts with rhyme aaaa before defaulting to free verse;
  • (5) Sonnet form includes the unusual use of 4 half lines; the  volta after 8 lines shifts the narrative from the physical discomfort of the journey to its significance within the passage of a poet’s life- time;

 

To George Seferis in the Underworld

    • 37 lines in stanzas of different lengths; lines between 4 and 10 syllables; no formal rhyme scheme; varied punctuation and use of enjambment;

 

Wordsworth’s Skates

  • 10 lines of poetry; irregular shape; lines from 2 to 12 syllables in length; no rhyme scheme;

 

The Harrow Pin

  • 8 tercets; lines varying between 5 and 12 syllables; sentences lengthen as the poem evolves; mid-line punctuation and use of enjambment ensures a variety of options for oral delivery; no formal rhyme scheme;

 

Poet to Blacksmith

  • 3 quatrains; lines of 12 syllables or more; loose but detectable rhyme scheme; almost predictable punctuation reflects the enumeration of requirements;

 

Midnight Anvil

  • 25 lines in 5 quintets; lines based around 5 and 7 syllables; no rhyme scheme; each stanza uses enjambment in line with the unfolding story; use also of colons and italicised quotation;

 

Sūgàn

  • A sonnet containing 2 broken lines; full lines are based on 10 syllables; no formal rhyme scheme;

 

Senior Infants – The Sally Rod

  • 9 lines based on 10/11 syllables; first sentence totally enjambed; the second in the form of a question;

 

Senior Infants – A Chow

  • sonnet form with one broken line; lines between 10 and 12 syllables; no rhyme scheme; varied use of punctuation and enjambment provides a variable rhythm for oral delivery;

Senior Infants – One Christmas day

Prose poem

The Nod

  • Sonnet; lines based on 10 syllables; volta after line 8; no formal rhyme scheme beyond two pairs in the later lines;

 

A Clip

  • Sonnet, break after line 7; lines based on 10 syllables; no formal rhyme scheme;

 

Edward Thomas on the Lagans Road

  • some 20 lines composed in sections linked by half lines; lines based on 10 syllables; no formal rhyme scheme;
  • a single central line that sets out  the huge spiritual pleasure of the moment;

 

Found Prose –  The Lagans Road

Found Prose – Tall Dames

Found Prose – Boarders

The Lift

  • 10 tercets and 1 final line; lines largely based on 10 syllables; shorter line 2 highlights the topic; varied punctuation and enjambment ( 1 of 4 consecutive lines) ensure an oral delivery that can follows the movement, permit reflection and solemnity;
  • No formal rhyme scheme as such but paired rhymes after tercet 5;

 

Nonce Words

  • 5 sextets; lines of 6 syllables or fewer; 6 complete sentences; no consistent rhyme scheme;

 

Stern

  • 12 lines in 2 sections, the first based on direct quotation, the second reflecting on the comparative fortunes of the twp poets; no formal rhyme scheme; lines vary between 3 and 10 syllables; enjambment particularly in (2);

 

Out of This World – Like Everybody Else

  • Sonnet form in 3 sections; break after l. 8; no rhyme scheme; lines based around 12 syllables;

 

Out of This World – Brancardier

  • 8 quatrains; rhyme scheme abba cddc sometimes tight, sometimes approximate; lines based on 10 syllables; italics used to pick out non-English phrases;

 

Out of This World – Saw Music

  • seven 4-line stanzas plus a single line that sums up ‘worth’ ;no formal rhyme scheme; lines based around 10 syllables

In Iowa

  • Sonnet; break after line 9; discernable rhymes amongst largely free verse; lines mainly 10/11 syllables; a single sentence before the volta; 3 following it;

 

Höfn

  • 10 lines based on 10 syllables with 3 tercets; a loose, variable rhyme scheme;

 

On the Spot

  • A sonnet; break after eight and a half lines; discernable rhyme scheme at the outset discontinued; lines based on 10 syllables; 3 complete sentences;

 

The Tollund Man in Springtime

  • (1) Sonnet based on lines of 10 syllables; volta after 8; 3 complete sentences: no rhyme scheme but as in the sequence as a whole, one loose example: lost/ moss;
  • (2) Sonnet in a single sentence with punctuation breaks; lines based on 10 syllables; volta in line 11; complex rhyme scheme; abba acca defefd;
  • (3) Sonnet; lines based on 10 syllables; no formal rhyme scheme except 2 rhymed pairs; piece starts with flurry of short sentences; 10 in all over 14 lines; volta after 7 lines linking objective description to subjective issues;
  • (4) Sonnet; lines based on 10 syllables; no formal rhyme scheme except 2 rhymed pairs; volta in line 8;
  • (5) Sonnet; lines based on 10 syllables; discernable irregular rhyme scheme; volta in line 11;
  • (6) Sonnet; lines based on 10 syllables; no rhyme scheme beyond distant pairing  stay/ bouquet; volta in line 9;
  • Four complete sentences with enjambed lines offering a varying flow in oral delivery;

 

Moyulla

  • (1) 12 lines of 7 syllables or fewer; free verse using enjambed lines and dashes;
  • (2) 12 lines of 7 syllables or fewer; free verse; consecutive enjambed lines;
  • (3) 12 lines of 6 syllables or fewer; free verse; use of enjambed lines;
  • (4) 12 lines of 8 syllables or fewer; free verse; 5 consecutive enjambed lines; punctuation: commas are numerous when the action becomes more heated.

 

Planting the Alder

  • Sonnet form with lines between 3 and 10 syllables; each feature punctuated as separate; the injunction to ‘plant’ in 4 lines; use of enjambment;

 

Tate’s Avenue

  • Four quatrains, each of the first 3 a complete sentence, the second totally enjambed; no formal rhyme scheme;

 

A Hagging Match

  • six lines using archaic language; teasing syntax; a single sentence split by a colon.

 

Fiddleheads

Prose poem

To Pablo Neruda

  • 2 seven lined stanzas and 24 lines in a single section; lines of variable length between 2 and 8 syllables; no formal rhyme scheme but some pairs and loose echoes: Corner repeated: saw/ more/ fort; be/ tree;

Home Help – Helping Sarah

  • 2 stanzas; 11 lines based on 10 syllables; no formal rhyme scheme;
  • The enjambments and contingent flow of the first sentence contrast with multiple semi-colons in stanza (2);

 

Home Help – Chairing Mary

  • 3 quatrains; lines based around 10 syllables; no rhyme scheme;

 

Rilke: The Apple Orchard

  • 4 quatrains; no formal rhyme scheme; lines based on 10 syllables; a feat of construction: a single complex sentence over 16 lines;

 

Quitting Time

  • Sonnet based around lines of 10 syllables; volta break in line 11: from today/ to every day; there is a sonic rhyme scheme based on consonant sounds [m] [t] and [k] each produced in a different part of the mouth;

 

Home Fires – Scuttle

  • 2 sextets; lines based on 10 syllables; no rhyme scheme;

 

Home Fires – Stove Lid

  • Sonnet; break after line 9; lines of10/11 syllables (except part-lines); no formal rhyme scheme;

 

The Birch Grove

  • 16 lines in a single stanza; no rhyme scheme; lines of 12 syllables or more; combination of this and use of enjambment offers unusual rhythmic potential to the reader;

 

Cavafy: “The Rest…”

  • 12 lines split 9/3; lines based largely on 11 syllables; no rhyme scheme;

 

In a Loaning

  • a single quatrain of 10-syllable lines;

 

The Blackbird of Glanmore

  • The structure follows a pattern with 6 five-line stanzas with a 1-line intermezzo between each; no rhyme scheme;

 

Subjects and Settings.

The Turnip Snedder

Subject: this manually driven turnip-crushing machine, a piece of archaic agricultural machinery, comes to bear the hallmarks of a medieval war-machine and introduces more modern forms of violence implicit within the first dozen or so poems in the collection

Setting: from Heaney’s rural Irish ‘territory’; a representation sets of associations and images

A Shiver

Subject: the physics and dynamics of wielding a hammer. The energy generated brings with it, however, an understanding of its destructiveness. What begins as a sense of physical reverberation affecting the person using a heavy tool ultimately evokes a shiver of fear when, as contemporary history demonstrates, extreme power falls into the wrong hands.

Setting: non-specific; actual use might have been in Heaney’s farm-home setting

Polish Sleepers

Subject: The first of eight poems alluding to boyhood during World War II. the recycled use of railway sleepers transports the speaker back in time to the lost domain of wartime childhood. Within this context, allusion to Poland opens the way to more serious contemporaneous phenomena: wartime concentration camps.

Setting: a more recent garden; a railway line from youth now disused; autobiographical element

Anahorish 1944

Subject: The momentous preparations for D-Day  brought an international force to Britain which was to launch an assault on the Normandy beaches and free Europe of nazism. American troops arrive in rural Ulster

Setting: the local abattoir in which the speaker is employed as a slaughterman.

To Mick Joyce in Heaven

Subject: a sequence of 5 sonnets, set at a time when Heaney was five or six years of age, is addressed to the memory of Mick Joyce. Heaney resurrects a figure from the past, recalling him with great warmth, affection and good-humour. The man was ‘demobbed’ at the end of WW2 and, it is suggested became part of the.

Setting: an imagined post-war building site; the Heaney home; autobiographical element

 

The Aerodrome

Subject: a particular wartime visit to his local airfield. The visit becomes a parable about insecurity, temptation, resistance and responsibility.

Setting: Toome aerodrome during and after WWII; autobiographical element

Anything Can Happen

Subject: the ‘strike’ of 9/11; Heaney’s version of Horace’s Ode I,34 contains specific reference to the destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York.

Setting: The classical sky of Horace’s world becomes the sky above 9/11 New York.

Helmet

Subject: a Boston fire-fighter’s headgear, symbolic of a breed of supermen who risk their lives for society, presented formally to Heaney in an informal ceremony. It is a poem celebrating human solidarity.

Setting: a shelf at home; a presentation ceremony in Boston, USA; autobiographical element

Out of Shot

Subject: a stepping-stone between two sets of events: the first remembered from Irish history; the second brought on by contemporary reports from the war-stricken Middle-East. An innocent animal is shell-shocked.

Setting: a field overlooking Wicklow Bay (autobiographical element); a middle-eastern bazaar area;

Rilke: After the Fire

Subject: Heaney version of a Rilke poem of 1908. The theme is of a man whose past has been destroyed overnight and is suddenly alienated from his environment.

District and Circle

Subject: memories of early-days’ vacation work in London, tempered with anxiety following terrorist attacks on London transport and coloured by the Dantesque/ Virgilian notion of the underground/ underworld’ tunnel leading from life to death. Autobiographical element;

To George Seferis in the Underworld

Subject: otherworldliness: how the poet appears to observers, his thought and preoccupations mistaken for absent-mindedness; the poet’s mental search to retrieve information; one poet reflecting upon aspects of another; spirituality;  comparative connotations of words.

Setting: a Greek setting; the pits of hell into which tyrants fall.

Wordsworth’s Skates

Subject: about celebrity and professional respect; legacy: signs of presence left behind; insights into the poetic process.

Setting: an exhibit once worn by a celebrated Romantic poet who lived in the Lake District; sits in a display-case at the Wordsworth Trust Centre, Grasmere

The Harrow Pin

Subject: first of three ‘workshop’ poems paints the character-portrait of a local blacksmith, perhaps even the Barney Devlin of ‘Midnight Anvil’; finger-wagging influence on a rural child-audience.

Setting: a blacksmith’s; autobiographical element.

Poet to Blacksmith

Subject: the search for perfection: Heaney offers a version from 18th century Irish of ‘instructions’ given by an agricultural labourer to his ‘spade-maker’ in the confidence that the latter can engineer the bespoke tool he requires. Setting:

Midnight Anvil

Subject: a Millennium celebration; local blacksmith, Barney Devlin, struck twelve hammer- blows on his anvil acting as ‘tuning-forks’ for poems.

Setting: Heaney was not present but could ‘see’ the event.

Sūgàn

Subject: an age-old process; a parallel is drawn: the composition of a poem is as complex and demanding of skills and commitment as the practice being described.

Setting: a young man in a hayfield yard or barn; autobiographical element

Senior Infants – The Sally Rod

Subject: a Primary school class-mate met years later in the street; a shared memory of physical punishment

Setting: a town, Granard; an Irish primary school classroom; autobiographical element.

Senior Infants – A Chow

Subject:a youngster gives in to temptation and reaps the consequences.

Setting: scratched initials on Anahorish bridge; autobiographical element.

Senior Infants – One Christmas day

Subject: sectarian problems surfacing during The Troubles; a chance meeting with a schoolboy from the past whilst Heaney was having a Christmas Day drink years later evokes memories; tribalism;

Setting: a pub at Castledawson ; memory of a school-pal’s garden; autobiographical element.

The Nod

Subject:aslight inclination of the head, ostensibly one of unspoken recognition; themes of suspicion and hidden threat in 1950s sectarian society.

Setting: local shopping streets and shops; autobiographical element.

A Clip

Subject: childhood routine in a rural Irish community: the hair-cut; the poet’s own sensitive, observant and imaginative nature already present in childhood, the first barber shop.

Setting: Heaney’s home community; autobiographical element.

Edward Thomas on the Lagans Road

Subject: appearance of a revenant on a road familiar to the poet where the ghosts of other ‘locals’ are also recalled.

Setting: Heaney has returned to the spot; autobiographical element.

Found Prose –  The Lagans Road

Subjects: community; environment; Heaney uses the iconic road to open a rite of passage to his first day at Primary School and opening up a contingent host of new experiences and sense data.

Setting: a road close to home; autobiographical element.

Found Prose – Tall Dames

Subject: figures from Heaney’s lost domain of childhood; traditional stereotypes of rural Ireland; specific groups who ‘walk tall’ in his memory.

Setting: a youngster circling his district; autobiographical element.

Found Prose – Boarders

Subject: a cold weekly journey from home to school and its accompanying metaphorical sense of displacement.

Setting: local colour; autobiographical element.

The Lift

Subject: a poet’s warm compassion for individuals and groups; a coffin’s final; paradoxical reward for friendship.

Setting: a graveyard.

Nonce Words

Subject: the blessing of being alive in or for of ’the time being’, ’the to-be-going-on-with; the privilege of the present moment whatever questions are being posed about the ‘now’ and the ‘hereafter’.

Setting: an Ulster journey by car interrupted; autobiographical element.

Stern

Subject: a poem about three poets: their different backgrounds and cultures, the mutual respect felt, the reverence generated, the tributes due.

Setting: an occasion when Heaney met Ted Hughes; autobiographical element.

Out of This World – Like Everybody Else

Subject: issues and experiences that in one sense or another are ‘not of this world’; a sequence about ‘meaning; the legacy of religious conditioning that never goes away.

Setting: attending mass recalled; autobiographical element.

Out of This World – Brancardier

Subject: a pilgrimage recounted light-heartedly, if not without a touch of the laddish irreverence; sense of responsibility versus freedom; temperance.

Setting: the journey; its mementi; autobiographical element.

Out of This World – Saw Music

Subject: forms of ‘alternative’ creative expression; the epilogue returns to Milosz and the issue comparative ‘worth’: recognising it, expressing it, having faith in it.

Setting: Belfast’s streets; a painter’s atelier; autobiographical element.

In Iowa

Subject: threats posed by climate-change; acute observation and clarity of memory,; associated local biblical references adding a spiritual dimension to implied  threats to mankind.

Setting: The Mid-West of USA; autobiographical element.

Höfn

Subject: omens and warnings; natural phenomena in decline; global threat.

Setting: over-flying the massive glacier behind the town of Hōfn in south-east Iceland;

 autobiographical element.

On the Spot

Subject: coldness contingent with death; minor changes of climatic conditions that destroy the ability to regenerate life;

 Setting: a walk through a well known landscape; autobiographical element.

The Tollund Man in Springtime

Subject: ‘green’ issues; the tensions between past purity, so-called ‘progress’ and pollution; man-made problems;

Setting: Heaney reintroduces his iron-age hero, whose sacrificially murdered body had been miraculously preserved in a Jutland peat-bog since the 4th century BC and discovered in 1950; modern urban technological landscapes; symbols of modernity

Moyulla

Subject: ‘green’ issues; pollution, ecological decline and former glory; female symbols and sensual overtones; a political position-statement.

Setting: a familiar local river, the Moyola before and after; autobiographical element.

Planting the Alder

Subject: a song in praise of a tree dear to Heaney that flourished in the wetland landscape of his roots; a lyrical botanical handbook.

Tate’s Avenue

Subject: emblems of a long partnership that for all its forty years has lost none of its physical chemistry; the erotic: sexuality and abstinence; other episodes .

Setting: ultimately Tate’s Avenue, an address in Belfast via the sea-side and Spain; autobiographical element.

A Hagging Match

Subject: How to say ‘I’m stuck on you’ in twenty words.

Setting: all the hallmarks of Seamus Heaney at work at Glanmore Cottage, the one intellectual the other physical; autobiographical element.

Fiddleheads

Subject: the ‘erotic’, not the sensual ‘wood nymph’ presence in Moyulla or the more overt sexuality of Tate’s Avenue, rather delicacies that bring pleasure-on-a-plate to the senses; prose-poem designed to bring a smile to a Japanese friend’s lips.

Setting: a mental picture

To Pablo Neruda

Subject: culinary pleasure, erotic in the newly discovered ‘pleasure’ sense of ‘Fiddleheads’; beauty born of the grotesque; lyricism for all the senses.

Setting: a gift from a local acquaintance: crab-apple jelly; a known spot, a known tree; autobiographical element.

Home Help – Helping Sarah

Subject: themes associated with the memory of two of Heaney’s father’s sisters; what Sarah has become via her character and personality; living-on-your-ownness; hard work; Ulster gardens and elderly dress;

Setting: an Ulster garden in springtime; autobiographical element.

Home Help – Chairing Mary

Subject: a chair crucial to the quality of life of an old, disabled woman recalled in her declining years; affection, compassion and family solidarity;

Setting: the Heaney family home.

Rilke: The Apple Orchard

Subject: experience of nightfall in an apple orchard; the intellectual search of the self to dredge up creative ideas;

Setting: as the title announces.

Quitting Time

Subject:a humble man on the point of packing up after a tiring day’s work; sound farming practice and personal fulfilment; the long hours required by the job.

Setting: a farmyard.

Home Fires – A Scuttle

Subject: A Tale of Two Dorothys in appreciation of William Wordsworth’ sister at different stages in her life

Setting: imagined Wordsworth home, say the cottage in Grasmere.

Home Fires – A Stove Lid

Subject: mass and majesty reflections on a youngster’s relatively dangerous chore;

Setting: childhood home; autobiographical element:

The Birch Grove

Subject: young trees for a mature couple; Nature’s regeneration witnessed in the privacy of their domestic harmony.

Setting: a cottage in Ludlow, Shropshire, England.

Cavafy: “The Rest…”

Subject: philosophical assumptions; freedom of speech and action; contrasting perceptions of the afterlife;

Setting: Ancient Greece, somewhere.

In a Loaning

Subject: the sheer sensual enjoyment of the rural countryside; the poet’s relief that he can express his feelings poetically after a period of writer’s-block; autobiographical element.

The Blackbird of Glanmore

Subject: a creature beloved of the speaker; its characteristics and nature; its predictability; its kindred spirit; a deceased brother recalled; premonition and superstition rejected; shadow – mortality’s , the sun’s; arrival, departure and nostalgia;
Setting: unstated but bearing all the hallmarks and emotional magnetism of Glanmore Cottage; autobiographical element.
Stylistic devices

Translating ideas, notions, themes, that ‘something’ from the inner recess of the mind, into words involves first selection: words and phrases, the ‘mot juste’ and so on, then the weaving of these lexical items into the fabric of the piece. This weaving process is a means to multiple ends: flow, sound, rhythm, echo, emphasis and so on; part of the ‘fun’ is drafting and redrafting text to achieve maximum impact in the finished product.

Published poetry, though not perhaps written for the reader, is there for the enjoyment and can be an intellectual challenge as well as a pleasure. Part of that enjoyment can legitimately include analysis of the style of the piece. What follows is a list of devices open to writers as part of their technique.

Whilst there might be no intrinsic value in spotting a particular device and knowing it by name, nevertheless it is good training. It helps the reader to be inquisitive and begs the question as to why the writer chose that particular device and to what end. We cannot always tease out the poet’s real intention but it is well worth trying!

‘a figure of speech is a way of talking or writing by which you say what you don’t mean and yet mean what you say. For example, ‘He blows his own trumpet’. You don’t mean he has a trumpet but you do mean that he blows it.  HUNT, Fresh Howlers (1930)

Antithesis: an arrangement of contrasted words in corresponding places in contiguous phrases, to express a contrast of ideas.

Chiasmus: the arrangement in parallel clauses of related terms in a reversed order, so AB BA as opposed to parallel order AB AB

Cliché:  A phrase whose wording has become fixed, or almost fixed, as usage has given it a fixed meaning. Cliches commonly use a recognised literary device which eventually uses its power

Comparison: A statement that there is a likeness between things which can in fact be likened

Dual meaning: This when a word or phrase is used so as to be understood in two different meanings, both of which fit the sentence (e.g. a literal  and a symbolic meaning), and in order that the two meanings may be related with each other

Enjambment: The continuation of a sentence, in verse, into the following line. Traditionally an enjambement is permissible if the break is at the normal break in the syntax or at a normal break between breath groups. This happens more routinely outside those conditions in free verse.

Enumeration: The arrangement of terms in succession, e.g. nouns in apposition, adverbs or adverbial phrases; economy of words is achieved. As a literary device enumerations can be used to add implications and rhythm to the subject matter, by grouping or gradation or even intentional iincoherency.

Euphemism: replacement of a distasteful by a more pleasant term, to refer to the same thing.

Free indirect speech: the expression of what is spoken or thought without introductory words such as He said, ‘…’ or He said that.. In narrative fis may be signalised by use of vocabulary appropriate to the character rather than the words of the author. Continuous fis becomes ‘interior monologue.

Hyperbole: the intentional use of an exaggerated term in place of the one more properly applicable, adding implications to the subject matter.

Inversion: The reversal of the normal order of the members of a sentence, perhaps to avoid ambiguity or to bring certain words into stressed or key position or to modify the rhythm.

Irony: The use of words containing a sufficient and apparently serious meaning in themselves, but conveying also, intentionally, to a more initiated person a further, generally opposed meaning; frequently the first meaning is laudatory or untenable

Litotes: intentional understatement inviting the reader to rectify. Frequently a negative expression.

Metaphor: an expression which refers to a thing or action by means of a term for a quite different thing or action, related to it, not by any likeness in fact but by an imagined analogy which the context allows.

A simile uses words like ‘like’ or ‘as…as’. Metaphors and similes have 2 terms: the thing meant and the thing ‘imported’ as a means of expressing, by analogy, what is meant.

Personifications are only 1 sort of metaphor.

This substitution of words has wide uses: ornament, implication, overtone. Its use may be regarded as a special means of revealing hidden truth.

Apart from enriching the thought by a device of form and enhancing the reader’s contact with the author, metaphors and similes may be significant or characteristic because of their reiterated suggestion of a writer’s preoccupations or his processes of thought.

Metonymy: the use of a word in place of another with which it is associated in meaning.

Objective-subjective: ‘objective’ – expressing reality as it is or attempting to do so; the reality of events or things is regarded as ‘external’. The reality may mental or emotional experience, examined rather than evoked. ‘Subjective’- expressing a version of reality in which it is modified by emotion or preconceived belief; or expressing conscious or subconscious experiences of states of mind

Oxymoron: the juxtaposition of contradictory or incongruous terms, understood as a paradox

Paradox: a statement or implication expressed so as to appear inconsistent with accepted belief, or absurd, or exaggerated, but intended to be realised by the reader as an acceptable or important truth, in some respect; often placed as a conclusion; in a paradox there is often a word which  cries out for redefinition in order to provide the alternative meaning which the writer has prepared his reader to accept.

Pathetic fallacy: ascribing human traits or feelings to inanimate nature, corresponding with those being experienced by a character or ‘voice’.

Periphrasis: the expression of a meaning by more words than are strictly necessary or expected, so that additional implications are brought in.

Porte-manteau word: a deliberate mixture of 2 words into one retaining both meanings: ‘’a bestpectable gentleman’, respectable guy wearing glasses!

Preciosity: aiming at or affecting refinement or distinction in expression; avoiding vulgar phrases; visibly introducing greater care in expression; using this precision, formal arrangement of words, difficult combinations of ideas, allusions and puns in the hope of revealing truths not to be expressed in plain and simple terms; exaggerating this so that, for example an ‘armchair’ might become a ‘commodity for conversation’!

Repetition: expressing a meaning or an attitude by implication, through the deliberate use of a word or phrase a second time

Symbol: a term for an object representing, conventionally or traditionally, an abstraction.

Synecdoche: the use of a word denoting a ‘part’ in place of the word for the whole, so ‘100 sails’ meaning ‘100 ships’.

Synesthesia: the representation of a sensation or image belonging to one of the five senses by words proper to another (‘loud tie’; Disney’s ‘Fantasia’).

Zeugma:  providing syntactical economy of words by using one word with dual possibility so that two meanings are taken separately – ‘he took his hat and his leave’.