Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Learning from the masters series: Seamus Heaney crafts imagery

Amber: imbedding strong images
You know those images that stick with you long after the work has been shelved or sunk beneath a mountain of new impressions? The ones you can read over and over and feel the gritty texture, smell the burning tang, see the vivid stain...that quality of capturing a moment precisely, the vision exacting?

I have read "Graubelle Man" numerous times.  I have heard Seamus Heaney perform his work, though I cannot say if I have listened to him recite this one.  But each time I read this poem, a voice accompanies it.  It is a resonant utterance, that shapes each word in melodic presses of the tongue against teeth, palate, and lips.  The man described is evoked into dimensions that show him half imbedded in soggy peat, various degrees of dark pigmentation on his rippled, sunken skin crumpled against the bone. The reader knows he would feel stiff and cold if touched.

Graubelle Man

As if he had been poured
in tar, he lies
on a pillow of turf
and seems to weep

the black river of himself.
The grain of his wrists
is like bog oak,
the ball of his heel

like a basalt egg.

He builds an image so deeply that it slides under the skin and settles in for a lifetime.  I cannot dig this image out of my horde of gathered bits of fine poesy.  There is much more to this poem, more images that bring the Gaubelle man described into the view of every reader that examines the piece. 
I cannot imagine that one could teach a person to write at this level.  I can only imagine that it must be sought out, read repeatedly, savored in the hope that in seeping in it will imbue one's images with moments which may find a reader to settle into for a lifetime.  Read, seek these images out, glory in them as reader or writer, make space under your skin for them.

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