Today marks the US publication by Farrar Straus and Giroux of 100 Poems, a selection of one hundred of Seamus Heaney’s best-loved poems – spanning his career, from first collection to last – as chosen by the poet’s family. Following the huge success of its publication by Faber in the UK and Ireland last year (it spent eleven weeks at number one on the Irish non-fiction bestseller list), FSG have created a beautiful new edition of the book for American readers.
To mark publication, there are a number of special events planned, with members of the Heaney family taking part. These include a reading at New York’s Irish Arts Center on Friday 1 November, to launch its annual PoetryFest (details and tickets here), as well as an event at The Poetry Foundation in Chicago on Wednesday 6 November. Follow us on Twitter to keep up with the latest details of these and others events, including a panel as part of IrelandWeek in Los Angeles in November, and a reading at Emory University in Atlanta in September.
To celebrate publication day, we wanted to share a poem with a resonance for American readers and have chosen this classic, ‘The Skunk’, written while Heaney was living in Berkeley California in the 1970s and redolent with its scents and sounds. We hope American readers enjoy this collection, and look forward to seeing you in the coming months!
To buy a copy of the US edition of 100 Poems, priced $25, click here.
Up, black, striped and demasked like the chasuble
At a funeral mass, the skunk’s tail
Paraded the skunk. Night after night
I expected her like a visitor.
The refrigerator whinnied into silence.
My desk light softened beyond the verandah.
Small oranges loomed in the orange tree.
I began to be tense as a voyeur.
After eleven years i was composing
Love-letters again, broaching the ‘wife’
Like a stored cask, as if its slender vowel
Had mutated into the night earth and air
Of California. The beautiful, useless
Tang of eucalyptus spelt your absence.
The aftermath of a mouthful of wine
Was like inhaling you off a cold pillow.
And there she was, the intent and glamorous,
Ordinary, mysterious skunk,
Snuffing the boards five feet beyond me.
It all came back to me last night, stirred
By the sootfall of your things at bedtime,
Your head-down, tail-up hunt in a bottom drawer
For the black plunge-line nightdress.