4.0 out of 5 stars
Homage to Heaney, 11 Jan 2014
It was my turn to choose a book for the book group. We tend to stick to prose narrative with the occasional foray into non-fiction and once, a selection of poems (mine!), that I didn't feel worked. So I wanted a narrative, something short and a tribute to Heaney, whose poetry I'd enjoyed over many years. I'd read Beowulf in other translations and felt this compared well. Descriptions of the sea were powerful: "sand churned in surf", "winter went wild in the waves", there was a strong rhythm that appealed to the group and there were a number of phrases that brought the poem to life for me in new ways. I loved the pitch of the opening "So" which felt timeless compared to other more didactic calls to listen up and I also liked the depiction of Grendel (even the words of the introduction-"a dog-breath in the dark"!). The kennings weren't so effective - not innovative and occasionally naff ("gannet-bath"? I've seen gannets diving to spear fish close up and it's not a leisurely splash-around!). However, a good translation which provoked lively discussion.