Saint Poet’s (er, Patrick’s) Day
Saint Poet’s (er, Patrick’s) Day

When all the others were away at Mass

By Seamus Heaney

When all the others were away at Mass

I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.

They broke the silence, let fall one by one

like solder weeping off the soldering iron:

cold comforts set between us, things to share

gleaming in a bucket of clean water.

And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes

from each other’s work would bring us to our senses.

So while the parish priest at her bedside

went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying

and some were responding and some crying

I remembered her head bent towards my head,

her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives–

never closer the whole rest of our lives.

In honor of Saint Patrick’s Day this week, I thought it would be nice to highlight some of the famous poets from Ireland. Last year, “When all the others were away at Mass” was named Ireland’s favorite poem of the past 100 years. The poem recalls a memory of a boy peeling potatoes with his mother, and it is said that Seamus Heaney wrote this about his deceased mother. Heaney won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995. Some of his poems are about Ireland; “Glanmore Sonnets” was based on the move he and his family made from Northern Ireland to the countryside of Irish Republic. There’s also “Digging,” the first poem I read by Heaney. In “Digging,” he writes about his love of writing versus his family’s tradition of being potato farmers. It spoke to me about doing what you love and being who you want to be, even if it goes against your family’s vision. While Heaney’s poem won the title, there are many other poets that hail from Ireland such as W.B. Yeats, Oscar Wilde, and Patrick Kavanagh. So, this Saint Patrick’s Day, celebrate by reading some of the country’s famous works. — Sara Brown

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