Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hips To Rhyme With Lips, Say Poetry Police

In case anyone has not noticed, Katy Perry's ubiquitous pop song rhymes "skin tight jeans" with "teenage dreams". Who will pay? As usual, no one.

Thinking of rhymes this morning on the last day of May, 2011: a recent collection of Seamus Heaney's poems, "District and Circle," ends with a poem that stuck with me from the moment I read it: "The Blackbird of Glanmore."

Context: when Heaney was in his late teens he and his family lost his younger brother, who was killed aged four, struck by a car. Now in his 70s, Heaney revisits the grave and the absence. The sharp unfairness of a life snatched away at so young an age, is still with Heaney, though much of  the emotion underpinning the poem is sort of transferred to a blackbird which he sees, and which sees him, in the graveyard.

The Blackbird of Glanmore

On the grass when I arrive,
Filling the stillness with life,
But ready to scare off
At the very first wrong move.
In the ivy when I leave.

It´s you, blackbird, I love.

I park, pause, take heed.
Breathe. Just breathe and sit
And lines I once translated
Come back: ´I want away
To the house of death, to my father

Under the low clay roof.´

And I think of one gone to him,
A little stillness dancer –
Haunter-son, lost brother –
Cavorting through the yard,
So glad to see me home,

My homesick first term over.

And think of a neighbour´s words
Long after the accident:
´Yon bird on the shed roof,
Up on the ridge for weeks –
I said nothing at the time

But I never liked yon bird.´

The automatic lock
Clunks shut, the blackbird´s panic
Is shortlived, for a second
I´ve a bird´s eye view of myself,
A shadow on raked gravel

In front of my house of life.

Hedge-hop, I am absolute
For you, your ready talkback,
Your each stand-offish comeback,
Your picky, nervy goldbeak –
On the grass when I arrive,

In the ivy when I leave.