I've loved Seamus Heaney's poetry since the late 70's when I read Digging - the first poem in the first collection - 1966.
"Between my finger and my thumb the squat pen rests; snug as a gun", it begins. He tells of his father digging potatoes "stooping in rhythm through potato drills...the coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft/against the inside knee was levered firmly./ He rooted out the tall tops, buried the bright edge deep/ to scatter new potatoes that we picked/loving their cool hardness in our hands./By God, the old man could handle a spade./Just like his old man."
After he won the Nobel Prize fifteen years ago I asked him at a reading if between his finger and thumb the squat pen still rested. "Yes", he said, "but I wrote the Nobel Lecture on my new Mac".
This week he and fellow Northern Ireland poet Paul Muldoon released new collections.
Dwight Garner reviewed the two poets in the Times today:
Reading Mr. Heaney’s restrained, earthy poems, you can almost smell the bits of straw and dried sheep dung woven into their woolen fabrics. His work has as much compression, cogency and unhurried rural gravitas as that of any poet alive.
Mr. Muldoon, after toddling briefly in Mr. Heaney’s footsteps, has emerged as a much wilder cat, an allusive and riddling poet, one whose Irish roots are tucked into the shadows cast by his cerebral lightning.
Muldoon's poetry is less accessible - unlike the fabulous lyrics of his three-car garage, all-PhD rock band Racket. But click here to read the rest of the review.