Heaney alluded to his father’s recurrent presence in Seeing Things in conversation with DOD: My father’s death in October 1986 was the final ‘unroofing’ of the world and I’m certain it affected me in ways that were hidden from me then and now. (p322).
This brief poem, dated fewer than three months after Patrick Heaney’s death sees the poet facing a New Year still fresh with the pain of bereavement.
Bleak midwinter offers no warmth to cheer Heaney’s way ahead (Dangerous pavements). His capacity to cope with the physical and emotional challenges (I face the ice this year) is bolstered by a symbol seen already in The Ash Plant, the iconic support that kept his father’s feet firmly on the ground: my father’s stick.
Heaney is capable of expressing his deepest emotional feelings via the briefest of poems as in The Strand from The Spirit Level of 1996:
The dotted line my father’s ashplant made/ On Sandymount Strand/ Is something else the tide won’t wash away.
- Heaney is a meticulous craftsman using combinations of vowel and consonant to form a poem that is something to be listened to.
- the music of the poem: three lines of poetry generates four assonant strands , woven into the text:
- alliterative effects allow pulses or beats, soothings or hissings or frictions of consonant sound to modify the assonant melodies; this is sonic engineering of the first order;
- the poem interweaves nasals [m] [n] with sibilant[s] alveolar plosive [t] and front of mouth sounds [f] [v] [w] [p] [b];
- a full breakdown of consonant sounds and where in the mouth they are formed is to be found in the Afterthoughts section