1 Question With George Kalogeris

Which Heaney poems most influenced “Seeking Clearance“? 

This is a valid but difficult question to answer without making my use of allusions appear as though they were all part of a prefigured, elaborately cohesive design—which they most definitely were not. The main thing was to pay homage to Heaney’s beautiful lines, and in so doing to construct an elegy that was based on what I heard in those lines: the deeply human person so alive inside his poems.

I started out with Heaney’s “The Rain Stick”, a poem which has always reminded me of my father’s Greek village ritual of blessing our house with a basil leaf that he would dip in a glass of holy water on Sunday mornings. And since the sprig of basil came from our neighbor’s garden, it suggested Heaney’s backyard “Mint” poem. Which in turn reminded me of the clump of grass Seamus picked at Epidaurus (one of the healing temples sacred to Asclepius) and sent to a cancer-stricken friend (“Out of the Bag”). Further, since Heaney first heard about his Nobel Prize award while he was in Arcadia, in the Peloponnese, which is my parents’ place of origin, I felt I had some leeway to bring in my own family associations with tribal ritual and retribution. And so forth, the Heaney allusions coming to me for the most part in this free associating way of making what I hope are both personal and linguistic connections. Finally, I also wanted to include the voices of other writers who had been so important to Heaney’s development, by his own admission: Wordsworth, Hopkins, Kavanagh, Yeats, Hardy, Frost, and Auden. Of course this list must also include Heaney’s close friends, Derek Walcott and Joseph Brodsky. All of it over the top, for sure, yet also a way, for me, of keeping under the spell. Bound by those beautiful lines: allusion in its elegiac instinct for reference back, but celebratory in its delight at finding the ancestral alive. 

List of Allusions

1. Snow was falling fast

Frost, “Desert Places” 

(and also a nod to Joyce, “The Dead”)

13. like mint

Heaney, “Mint”

14. Near bottles a boy / Might blow a tune

Wordsworth, Prelude Book 5

26. Rainstick from Epidaurus

Heaney: “The Rain Stick,” “Out of the Bag”

29. The veering mark your skates could make

Heaney, “Wordsworth’s Skates”

Wordsworth, The Prelude Book 1

38. Heaney, “Digging”

39.Heaney, “Anahorish”

42. “whitethorn hedges”

Kavanagh, “Innocence”

45. peeling potato skins

Heaney, Clearances, III

48. Chekhov drinking vodka

Heaney, “Chekhov on Sakhalin”

55. Like Hardy face to face with the witless herd

Heaney, “Squarings vii”

56 Orient wheat

Thomas Traherne

59 Not Tract. Not Thesis. Or Pasternack

Heaney: “Chekhov on Sakhalin,” “The Sounds of Rain”

62 points of light

Auden, “September 1, 1939”

63 darkness visible

Milton, Paradise Lost, Book One

69 Strophes following the ring of the anvil

Walcott, “Sea-Cranes”

71 water-cress

Heaney, Sweeney Astray

72 Elpenor

Odyssey, Book 12

75 Belfast coalman

Heaney, “Two Lorries”

77 old books

Yeats, “The Cold Heaven”

79 wind and rain

Hardy, “During Wind and Rain”

80 beggar..ashiver

Heaney, “Squarings, i”

80 Shaving cuts

Heaney, “Squarings, xxxiv”

81 unregenerate clay

Heaney, “Wheels within Wheels”

82 paralytic

Heaney, “Miracle”

85 skylights

Heaney, “Glanmore Revisited: The Sky Light”

87 Rat-poison

Heaney, “Squarings, xvi”

88 St Kevin

Heaney, “St Kevin and the Blackbird”

92 Keenan’s well

Heaney, “At the Wellhead”

94 yon blackbird

Heaney, “The Blackbird of Glanmore”

95 Flaggy Shore

Heaney, “Postscript”

97 a factory for churning out milk

Heaney, “The Milk Factory”

100 hose-water splashing

Heaney, “Sonnets from Hellas: The Augean Stables”

104 loads of apples

Heaney, “Sonnets from Hellas: Into Arcadia”

111 windshield’s polished reflections

Heaney, “From the Frontier of Writing”

113 State of image and allusion

Heaney, “Sandstone Keepsake”

115 coins of guilt

Heaney, “Terminus”

117 slab of butter

Heaney, “Bogland”

120 out of the marvelous

Heaney, “Squarings, viii”

121 wince and sing

Hopkins, “No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief”

123 the tinker’s tree

Heaney, “Fosterling”

124 midnight anvil

Heaney, “Midnight Anvil”

124 diamond absolute

Heaney, “Singing School: Exposure”

127 Eddie Diamond

Heaney, “Hailstones”

Part of a series of one-question interviews.

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