In Small Townlands

Heaney’s artist-friend, Colin Middleton (who saw himself as the only Irish ‘surrealist’ of his time and to whom the poem is dedicated) is composing a landscape painting in his own very personal style. Heaney’s poem creates its own word-canvas of the painting in progress reporting the transformations Middleton imposes en route. Often preoccupied with his own issues of poetic composition and personal imprint on his poems, Heaney observes the techniques and overlays of a creative act exercised within another medium. The initial big-brush outlines and washes executed with hogshair wedge reflect things much as Heaney sees them: Middleton works on the different segments to distinguish between the granite and the clay, using washes of muted colour (blue … grey), until […]