Saying Digging by Seamus Heaney

Saying Digging by Seamus Heaney…

This is a poem that I started learning at the end of August. I have been trying to learn a poem a week. It is now mid September.

I don’t really know why but this poem turned out to be so difficult to learn. It is a little longer than the other ones I have learnt so far but I think there is something about the message in the poem. Something about it that I can hear but not really feel.

The poem is one of Heaney’s earlier poems and he is looking at his father and his grandfather and how they were brilliant at digging. The rhymes are beautiful and subtle and it just sounds so natural. It is a beautiful poem. Maybe the core message did not vibrate with me.

Why so difficult?

Some of the reasons that made it so difficult to learn this poem was that there was a lot of stuff going on: it was the end of the holidays and then it was back to school for my young family. I tried a couple of times to record it but nearly everytime I tried to record it I got something wrong. Either when I was saying it or else something happened during the recording.

I have seen great advantages from learning poetry though. I have seen it  in re-learning some of my music and lyrics for the groups I play with.

Why learn?

There was a concert with Onze Onze and it was so easy to relearn all the lyrics after the holidays. In an earlier post I wondered about the utility of learning these poems so I suppose I am getting an answer already.

I can also feel it in my writing. I have continued drawing as well and there are things changing with that too. I will announce the news in relation to drawings on a separate post.

Last night, I was at the birthday party of a friend and he co-celebrated his birthday with his father. We improvised some music with some musician friends. I improvised some lyrics.

What can we say about time passing? About those who have come before? How can we live up to the ones who were before us?

Heaney answers you have to use the tools that you have.

Hope you enjoy this poem and see you soon…

Digging by Seamus Heaney.

Between my finger and my thumb   

The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.


Under my window, a clean rasping sound   

When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:   

My father, digging. I look down


Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds   

Bends low, comes up twenty years away   

Stooping in rhythm through potato drills   

Where he was digging.


The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft   

Against the inside knee was levered firmly.

He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep

To scatter new potatoes that we picked,

Loving their cool hardness in our hands.


By God, the old man could handle a spade.   

Just like his old man.


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” from Death of a Naturalist. Copyright 1966 by Seamus Heaney.

News- but not really

Hello all,

I have been a bad blogger- I spend most of my time on Instagram where I am throwing up a drawing or a film nearly every other day.

Macdara on Instagram

I should try and do that here more often. I did take a new year’s resolution where I said that I would write a blog post here every week. Maybe I will get back to it sometime.

Honestly though, working, making art and raising a family, just makes these things slide.

Here instead is some news before this special weekend.

I’m in a great mood to be doing two dates with Zarboth

We are playing Bourges on Friday 21st April at the Printemps de Bourges (OFF) à L’Hexagone, 11 rue des trois bourses, 18000 Bourges, France
https://www.facebook.com/events/399810627062685/

And Saturday 22nd April in Les Hirondelles 2 Place sous l’Orme, 89450 Asquins, France.

On Sunday I’ll be playing with the equally fabulous Onze Onze

We are playing at the MOFO festival in Mains d’Œuvres but come early!

Here is the video (by Auriane Legendre) from our upcoming EP Things Falling…

Do You Remember?

doyourememberphotoDo you remember?

Do you spend time remembering? Or do you spend time dreaming about the future? In fear of the future and sad about your past? Or look to the future with happiness and remember the past fondly?

Little book of poetry

I picked up a little book of poems in a second hand store at the weekend. They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but I fell for this book straight away. It has a pink cover, with a tissue satin like embossed cover and it would easily fit in your pocket.

The book contains poems of love. The poems date from 1360s in old French. Of course, love is actually quite a modern concept. And the French invented that, or at least contributed to the idea of gallant love. All the notions of chivalry and the troubadours that sang about it were first in France.

Some of the poems are very ribald. Which is also very amusing. Funny to see how people were so direct sometimes in their approaches together. Thinking of the changes that have occured in the way we live together, the way we desire one another. The summer suddenly upon us and everyone dressed in their best summer clothes… In France, in Paris we have been having a spectacularly bad spell of weather.

Birds singing thousands of years ago.

For a country that invented courtesy, it’s good to remember that France wasn’t even France before. It’s even hard to believe that the art of chivalry was born in France when you’ve had to contend with some of the French shopkeepers here…

I was sitting in the French countryside reading these poems, drinking red wine. There was at last a little bit of sunshine. It was a beautiful moment. Dinner was going to be ready soon. Couscous and merguez.

I always feel privilieged when reading old poems. Its like a ghost has come to you, they step up to you and you travel through time. You’re whisked away. Taken away from your concerns and you see that other times and places had other worries and concerns or even similar ones but with different forms.

It is magical, a voice, has sat, and waited for you inside a book. Your eyes scan the page and you can hear this voice. This voice inside your head.

The birds sang around me, much like they had hundreds and thousands of years ago.

Other news

Onze Onze black n white logo

We have just released, independently, the first EP by Onze Onze. In this group I take care of the lyrics and I play a little bit of trumpet. You can listen to the EP on the link above. When I listen to this music I hear my voice and the lyrics and I understand them differently with the passing of time.

Ghost words, future ghosts

Your words are ghosts of the way you were and sometimes they tell you the way you will be as well. The word takes you out of the now and through recording it, whether that be written down or recorded, the word becomes something else.

All I can do is collect words in my nets, and try to say them as honestly as possible.

Nets on the metro

I often write on the metro in Paris and it is like having antennas, listening to little bits of conversations. You have to try to listen to yourself as well. To hear what is coming. So, here with Onze Onze you have a collection of 5 tracks.

If you like Onze Onze, we are a totally independent organisation and we appreciate any help you can give us. That can mean listening and sharing, telling people about us. Giving us hugs. If you want to know more about the group here are lots of our links:

ONZE ONZE – 1st EP YELLOW OUT ON JUNE 23rd 2016
BANDCAMP : https://onzeonze.bandcamp.com
FACEBOOK : https://www.facebook.com/onzeonzemusic/
SOUNDCLOUD : https://soundcloud.com/11-11music-121438745
WEBSITE: https://onzeonzemusic.wordpress.com/

Zarboth back in the saddle.

http://zarboth.com/

That is it- these are our last two dates… for the summer! Here they are and please let people you know that are nearby…

1 July 2016 @ Festival La Ferme à Melrand, 56310 Melrand, France

2 July 2016 @ Chez Lulu, 2 rue du pont golhen, 56230 Larré, France

That will be it for the summer, but more news about Zarboth shortly!

Apart from that?

Playing trumpet in the sun. Playing trumpet as the boat sinks…

https://www.instagram.com/macdarasmith/

Have a great week!