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The River Knows ~ a Poem in the Style of Seamus Heaney

John has many years of writing experience in poetry, short fiction and text for children's books. Basically, he just loves to write.

Inspiration For "The River Knows"

I have recently been reading the works of a number of famous poets including Henry Lawson, Charles Bukowski, Walt Whitman etc. The latest I have been studying is Seamus Heaney, and so this poem is inspired by one of his works called "The Harvest Bow."

The subject of "The River Knows" is totally different but the structure, flow and rhyme scheme similar to Seamus Heaney's poem. I hope you enjoy it.

The River, Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

The River, Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

The River Knows

Strolling by the river, risks are fraught,

Your demeaner indicated deeper thought.

I took your hand but your response was slow

Just like the water's gentle rippling flow.

Words were tangled bitter in my throat

And conversation started by you nought.


Is it so long ago I saw you swoon?

We sat as lovers staring at the moon

Exchanging words of love, was it a dream?

Now tongue-tied both, the only sound the stream.

Our sad discomfort felt by only us,

The river babbles by, oblivious.


Should I extract words from my aching heart?

It makes me wonder were you just a flirt?

I toss a stone, it skims, and then it sinks

To the dark bottom of the river’s depths.

The river is much wiser than us both

The riddle answered by the sinking stone.


Seamus Heaney

Who Was Seamus Heaney?

Seamus Justin Heaney was an Irish poet, playwright and translator. Heaney was recognised as one of the principal contributors to poetry during his lifetime. American poet Robert Lowell described him as "the most important Irish poet since Yeats", and many others, including the academic John Sutherland, have said that he was "the greatest poet of our age".

Heaney published his first poetry book in 1966, Death of a Naturalist, creating vivid portraits of Irish rural life. Later work looked at events in Irish history as well as his homeland's civil war, and allusions to Irish myth.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995 and later received England's T.S. Eliot and David Cohen prizes, among a wide array of accolades. He was known for his speaking engagements as well and traveled across the world to share his art and ideas.

Seamus Heaney was a professor at Harvard from 1981 to 1997, and its Poet in Residence from 1988 to 2006. He was also the Professor of Poetry at Oxford from 1989 to 1994. During this period he divided his time between Dublin and Boston.

Seamus Heaney 1970. This is a scan from an original black & white photo taken and printed by me, SiGarb. It has been retouched to remove dust and scratches and repair the edges of the image. / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)

Seamus Heaney 1970. This is a scan from an original black & white photo taken and printed by me, SiGarb. It has been retouched to remove dust and scratches and repair the edges of the image. / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)

Heaney's Last Work

His last book of poetry, Human Chain, was published in 2010. I love this collection and in my opinion contains some of his best poems. Here is a short poem from the book as an example:

Had I Not Been Awake

Had I not been awake I would have missed it,
A wind that rose and whirled until the roof
Pattered with quick leaves off the sycamore


And got me up, the whole of me a-patter,
Alive and ticking like an electric fence:
Had I not been awake I would have missed it

It came and went too unexpectedly
And almost it seemed dangerously,
Hurtling like an animal at the house,

A courier blast that there and then
Lapsed ordinary. But not ever"


Regarded as a kind, lovely soul, he died in Dublin, Ireland, on August 30, 2013, at the age of 74.

Upon his death, The Independent described him as "probably the best-known poet in the world".

(References: Wikipedia, Britannica)

Both his stunning work and his life were a gift to the world. His mind, heart, and his uniquely Irish gift for language made him our finest poet of the rhythms of ordinary lives and a powerful voice for peace.

— Bill Clinton

M Marie and Seamus Heaney at the Dominican Church, Kraków, Poland, 1996. Maire / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)

M Marie and Seamus Heaney at the Dominican Church, Kraków, Poland, 1996. Maire / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)

© 2020 John Hansen