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Personal Choice 64

Seamus Heaney

The Forge

All I know is a door into the dark,

Outside, old axles and iron hoops rusting;

Inside, the hammered anvil’s short-pitched ring,

The unpredictable fantail of sparks

Or hiss when a new shoe toughens in water.

The anvil must be somewhere in the centre,

Horned as a unicorn, at one end square,

Set there immoveable: an altar

Where he expends himself in shape and music.

Sometimes, leather aproned, hairs in his nose,

He leans out on the jamb, recalls a clatter

Of hoofs where traffic is flashing in rows;

Then grunts and goes in, with a slam and a flick

To beat real iron out, to work the bellows.

Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney (1939 - 2013) was an Irish poet, playwright and translator. He received the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature. Among his best-known works is Death of a Naturalist (1966), his first major published volume. Heaney was and is still recognised as one of the principal contributors to poetry in Ireland during his lifetime. American poet Robert Lowell described him as ‘the most important Irish poet since Yeats’, and many others, including the academic John Sutherland, have said that he was ‘the greatest poet of our age’. Robert Pinsky has stated that ‘with his wonderful gift of eye and ear Heaney has the gift of the story-teller’. Upon his death in 2013, The Independent described him as ‘probably the best-known poet in the world’. Heaney is buried at the Cemetery of St Mary's Church, Bellaghy, Northern Ireland. The headstone bears the epitaph ‘Walk on air against your better judgement’, from one of his poems, The Gravel Walks.

My father was adept at repairing his gardening and work tools rather than replacing them with new ones. Once he had completed the task he would always point to the restored implement and say ‘Now it will always be stronger at the mended place.’ Heaney is a wonderful poet and this is by far one of his best.


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