Poetry

Seamus Heaney – The Peninsula

“And drive back home, still with nothing to say
Except that now you will uncode all landscapes
By this: things founded clean on their own shapes,
Water and ground in their extremity.”

– Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney’s The Peninsula begins with a stop or a moment of stuckness – having nothing more to say, whether its writer’s block, or a difficult conversation, or coming to the end of something when all is spent. The poem goes beyond the words that can’t be found and into the landscape for a drive ‘without marks’ and with no arrival, only the act of passing through and driving on into the night when ‘the ploughed field swallows the whitewashed gable.’ The specific reference here is to the Ards Peninsula near Belfast where Heaney used to visit and whose rugged outline and rocks ‘where breakers shredded into rags’ remained in his mind’s eye as he drove back home. The poem ends with no resolution for the lack of words, but with a deeper, more fundamental unravelling of basic forms and elements and ‘things founded clean on their own shapes.’


The Peninsula

When you have nothing more to say, just drive
For a day all round the peninsula.
The sky is tall as over a runway,
The land without marks, so you will not arrive

But pass through, though always skirting landfall.
At dusk, horizons drink down sea and hill,
The ploughed field swallows the whitewashed gable
And you’re in the dark again. Now recall

The glazed foreshore and silhouetted log,
That rock where breakers shredded into rags,
The leggy birds stilted on their own legs,
Islands riding themselves out into the fog,

And drive back home, still with nothing to say
Except that now you will uncode all landscapes
By this: things founded clean on their own shapes,
Water and ground in their extremity.

Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)
From: 100 Poems

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