Week 17: The Guttural Muse, by Seamus Heaney

The Guttural Muse

Late summer, and at midnight
I smelt the heat of the day:
At my window over the hotel car park
I breathed the muddied night airs off the lake
And watched a young crowd leave the discothèque.

Their voices rose up thick and comforting
As oily bubbles the feeding tench sent up
That evening at dusk—the slimy tench
Once called the “doctor fish” because his slime
Was said to heal the wounds of fish that touched it.

A girl in a white dress
Was being courted out among the cars:
As her voice swarmed and puddled into laughs
I felt like some old pike all badged with sores
Wanting to swim in touch with soft-mouthed life.

Seamus Heaney

The most successful poet of modern times caught in a mood of vulnerability and alienation, wishing he could lay down his bardship and just go with the flow as one of the crowd. One is tempted to say ‘Forget it, Seamus, you’d be bored rigid in two minutes’, but whatever one’s scepticism towards the sentiment that muscular, sensuous language of his is, as ever, a delight.

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