Compare the ways in which Heaney and Sheers write about memories. Your response must include detailed discussion of at least two of Heaney’s poems Memories, for both Heaney and Sheers, stimulate the writing of their poetry and act as a foundation for many of their poems. Both Heaney and Sheers’ poetry contains a deep love of, and feeling for the landscape. Sheers said himself; “You can’t separate landscape from people. They’re completely imbricated.” For example Heaney’s poem “Digging” is set in the fields of Ireland when his father is “stooping in rhythm through potato drills”.
Often a certain sight, smell or sound can evoke memories. For Heaney it is the “clean rasping sound” that awakens the image of his father working in the fields, taking him back to his childhood. Heaney uses an extensive range of onomatopoeic words such as “sloppily”, “squelch” and “slap” which allow the poet’s memory to come alive for the reader. For example when Heaney hears the sound of the spade digging he lets the reader hear it too by using the word “rasping”. This gives the poem a very personal feel which highlights not only the importance of this poem to his character but also the importance of this memory of the development of his craft.
As Heaney recalls the memory of his Father digging, he shows his love and admiration of their traditional occupation; “By God, the old man could handle a spade”. He also seems very proud of his grandfather who “could cut more turf in a day / Than any other man on Toner’s bog”. The poet reveals the tremendous skill in digging and conveys certain artistry in this physical act as he describes how “the coarse boot nestled on the lug” and uses delicate language like “Nicking and slicing neatly” to show his appreciation of the accuracy involved.
Sheers also has a similar level of admiration for his ancestors in his memory of when his grandfather and he castrated lambs in “Late Spring”. Sheers describes how his grandfather could castrate a lamb like playing a cello, which emphasizes the skill with which his ancestor worked. This is also highlighted by the way in which his grandfather could “coax” the lambs “into the sack, one-handed, like a man milking, two soaped beans into a delicate purse”
Moreover, we get the impression that Sheers respects his grandfather similarly to the way Heaney respects his ancestors because as his grandfather would crown the lambs, all sheers could do is “stand and stare”, almost like he is awe struck. Blackberry Picking is a poem that is centered on a memory of his childhood; the annual experience of picking wild fruit in late summer. The poem offers a literal description of picking blackberries but is also shows the inevitability of succumbing to temptations and the harsh disappointments we must face in our lives. Heaney uses rich language such as “glossy”, “sweet” and “thickened wine” to awaken our senses and draw the reader into the imagery of the poem. The pace in lines three and four is very slow because Heaney uses lots of commas to force the reader to takes more pauses; “at first, just one, a glossy purple clot”. This mirrors the anticipation, a child would experience when waiting to go picking.