Seamus Heaney, described by Robert Lowell as “the most important Irish poet since Yeats,” was perhaps the best-known poet in the world in our age, a master story-teller, the recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize for Literature.
My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.
The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.
–Seamus Heaney, “Digging,” Death of a Naturalist (1966)
a poem for
National Poetry Month,
a literary celebration inaugurated
by the Academy of American Poetry