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  • John H. B. Martin

Song of the Somme

(1st July - 18th November, 1916)

to commemorate an omniversary

May Seamus Heaney drown in his own mud!

His way of writing isn't what I favour …

And yet it is … Compared to all the rest.

Ours is an age of mud, so mud must be

the take-home message (and the whole caboodle):

the mud of rugby, and that mud which crawled

out of the trenches, from that First World Puddle,

in such mud-coloured uniforms as we

espouse now and feel proud to flounce about in

or else, in which, we lose our futile battles;

for every prize we seek's lost long before

the first shot's fired in this great age of muddle.

One day we'll learn to frolic in the sun

on grassy fields whose wildflowers drown our prattle.

John H.B. Martin is a poet who lives in London, England. He is a graduate of London University and Australia National University and has been writing for many decades. He has written four novels and is working on a fifth. His magnum opus is a six-volume epic poem. Most of his work is yet to be published.


Jul 17, 2022

As you rightly guessed, John, I totally disagree with you in regard to your assessment of Seamus Heaney's place in posterity, because posterity now depends on more than reading poems in books or online - and I'm talking specifically here about the two Seamus Heaney Centres that have been set up in Ireland to house, promote, and honour his work. The sense of him that comes across in these centres (with all the readings in his own voice and all the various drafts of certain poems in his own hand) is one of a meticulous, sublime, (almost mystical) craftsman who is well able to reach into realms of beauty beyond this world. However, putting our vastly differing views of Heaney…


Jul 17, 2022

Seamus Heaney in his mid-fifties shifted his sombre mud and blood perspective (his 'lowlands of the mind') to include an acknowledgement of the earth's miracles and marvels ('the tree-clock of tin cans/The tinkers made') and, by so doing, he set out a map for poets after him to follow, much in line with what your final lines suggest. But, in my view, John, Heaney was probably the last of the truly great poets. I certainly wouldn't Simon Armitage or Paul Muldoon or any of that 'muddle' into the same category of greatness. By the way, I like the subtle manner in which a simple, well-chosen word like 'prattle' can conjure up Wilfred Owen and 'the stuttering rifles rapid rattle' of…

Jul 17, 2022
Replying to

Thanks. I'm less impressed by Seamus Heaney than you are. I'm afraid all that mud really does get in the way. In comparison with Yeats he surely hardly even registers. And not only does he look like a farmer he writes like one. And much of his work seems terribly uninspired. You feel he didn't really need to write it.

I think of all those fish Yeats wrote about, beached on the strand, when it comes to those other word-smiths you cite. Certainly Heaney is better than them. But only in the same way that a dog is better than its fleas.

Prizes are no guarantee of value. And I cannot think of Seamus Heaney's reputation as lasting very long.

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