Writes masterfully in meter and rhyme and is reticent and indirect
Paradoxes of work can be understood in the context of his historical situation as an Irish Catholic who grew up in the predominantly Protestant North of Ireland under Brithis rule
Is a political poet, but refuses slogans, journalistic reportage and ploitical pieties
Voice of conscience and remorse
Wrote elegies for people who were killed in the violence of Northern Ireland
Between my finger and my thumb/ The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.
Under my window, a clean rasping sound/ When the spade winks into gravelly groud:/ My father, digging. I look down
Till his strainging rump among the flowerbeds/ Bends low, comes up twenty years away/ Stooping in rhythm through potato drills/ Where he was 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.
I can feel the tug/ of the halter at the nape/ of her neck, the wind/ on her naked front.
It blows her nipples/ to amber beads,/ it shakes the frail rigging/ of her ribs.
I can see her drowned/ body in the bog,/ the weighing stone,/ the floating rods and boughs.
Under which at first/ she was a barked sapling/ that is dug up/ oak-bone, brain-firkin:
her shaved head/ like a stubble of black corn,/ her blindfold a soiled bandage,/ her noose a ring
to store/ the memories of love./ Little adulteress,/ before the punished you
you were flaxen-haired,/ undernourished, and your tar-black face was beautiful./ My poor scapegoat,
I almost love you/ but would have cast, I know,/ the stones of silence./ I am the artful voyeur
of your brain’s exposed/ and darkened combs,/ your muscles webbing/ and all your numbered bones:
I who have stood dumb/ when your betraying sisters,/ cauled in tar,/ wept by the railings,
who would connive/ in civilized outrage/ yet understand the exact/ and tribal, intimate revenge.
-Punishment (in whole)
My father worked with a horse-plough,/ His shoulders globed like a full sail strung/ Between the shafts and the furrow./ The horses strained at his clicking tongue.
An expert. He would set the wing/ And fit the bright steel-pointed sock./ The sod rolled over without breaking./ At the headrig, with a single pluck
Of reins, the sweating team turned round/ And back into the land. His eye/ Narrowed and angled at the ground,/ Mapping the furrow exactly.
I stumbled in his hobnailed wake,/ Fell sometimes on the polished sod;/ Sometimes he rode me on his back/ Dipping and rising on his plod.
I wanted to grow up and plough,/ To close one eye, stiffen my arm./ All I ever did was follow/ In his broad shadow round the farm.
I was a nuisance, tripping, falling,/ Yapping always. But today/ It is my father who keeps stumbling/ Behind me, and will not go away.
-Follower (in whole)