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Death of an Amateur Turf Cutter

August 30, 2013

Seamus Heaney – poet, Irishman and amateur turf cutter – died today aged 74. He was one of the poets whom I truly enjoyed when I was studying poetry at university.

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As his spiral turns to completion we can only wonder at where such genius with words will re-appear amongst us. Here are some of his inspiring words which turned my thoughts, and those of many others, to Nature and her processes.

Here’s “Blackberry Picking“, as this is perfect for this time of year:-

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.

You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.

Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.

We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.

I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.

Seamus. Thank you for your words, and the way you made them sing.

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Seamus Heaney’s works on Amazon

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