Poem for March

Squarings by Seamus Heaney
Squarings? In the game of marbles, squarings
Were all those anglings, aimings, feints and squints
You were allowed before you’d shoot, all those

Hunkerings, tensings, pressures of the thumb,
Test-outs and pull-backs, re-envisagings,
All the ways your arms kept hoping towards

Blind certainties that were going to prevail
Beyond the one-off moment of the pitch.
A million million accuracies passed

Between your muscles’ outreach and that space
Marked with three round holes and a drawn line.
You squinted out from a skylight of the world.

Taken from Seamus Heaney’s collection, Seeing Things (1991), written during a prolific and fertile period in the poet’s career. It is the third of forty-eight twelve line poems under the general title of ‘Squarings’. Each poem follows an identical metrical form with an ear for the underlying music of the words. This particular poem can be seen as a metaphor for how to go about writing a poem, but also more broadly. In an interview with Dennis O’Driscoll Heaney described how ‘you could think of every poem in Squarings as the peg at the end of a tent-rope reaching up into the airy structure but still with purchase on something earthier and more obscure’.

David Underdown