‘The Skunk’ Poetry Guide


So, ‘The Skunk’ features in the collection ‘Field Work’ where Heaney really makes a conscious effort to speak in more colloquial and personal tone, not only about his marriage but also about his reactions to things in the wider political context. The poem itself is about the love shared between husband and wife as well as that erotic love that exists within marriage. The emphasis is based on absence and the effect that this absence has on the couple and the distance between the two really serves to bring the poet’s wife more sharply into focus. The imagery in the poem really draws on Heaney’s knowledge of Catholic customs so you have the priest’s vestments and you’ve the magical effect of the word wife. Different line lengths, enjambment and run on lines really add an informal tone. While long vowels and short consonants particularly in the quote “tang of eucalyptus spelled her absence” really allow for a warm and affectionate tone and rhythm to emerge. There are also a lot of metaphors in the poem with my personal favorite being “by the sootfall of your things at bedtime” which really captures that gentle sound of clothes hitting the floor. The poet is really stirred by this idea of remembering the skunk’s visitation by this sound which gives us this idea that he is also stirred by the idea of being reconnected with his wife. but again If you would like to bring your students to “Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again”, do drop us an email at [email protected] But until then join us next week for our next poetry guide where we will focus on ‘The Pitchfork’.

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