When asked to compare the two poems â€“ ‘Boy driving his father to confession’ by Seamus Heaney and ‘Praise song for my mother’ by Grace Nichols the first thing that stuck out was the difference in layout. Seamus Heaney’s poem is written in longer sentences and reads more like a story. Grace Nichols poem is a lot shorter with only two words in some lines and it compares her mother to various things.
Seamus Heaney writes about his father in a realistic way, never praising him and only focussing on his bad points. Grace Nichols on the other hand only praises her mother, so much that I felt that this poem was a lie, nobody thinks that their parent is that perfect. ‘Praise song for my mother’ is written in the past tense so maybe her mother is dead and she has written this poem in her memory, only praising her good points because maybe she feels guilty that they could have been closer.
In the last line of the poem it says ” Go into your wide futures, you said” perhaps the daughter went overseas and didn’t see her mother for a long time and now feels guilty that while away her mother was ill and died and had to face this without her daughter by her side. I think its easier to see the good points in someone if you are away from them for a long time, you don’t have to see their bad points and like the saying says “absence makes the heart grow fonder”. ‘Boy driving his father to confession’ tells us about the difficult relationship between Seamus and his father.
You are immediately aware of this in the title, instead of writing son he has written boy. I think that men find it difficult to talk about their feelings and emotions. Seamus Heaney tells us that on only four occasions has he seen his father let his guard down and show his emotions. The picture I get of his father is a very private man who keeps himself to himself he probably doesn’t talk to his son about anything personal only to tell him to do his homework, wash the car, tidy the room etc.
I also feel that if they had to discuss an item of news the father would not accept the son’s point of view. The writer Grace Nichols is Caribbean and because of this has written her poem comparing her mother to various things found in the Caribbean, in line 12 she has written ” the flame trees spread to me” followed by ” the crab’s leg / the fried plantain smell”. I think that my mother would be upset to be compared to something that I used to look for in rock pools on holidays. The diet of the Caribbean people is very different to ours.
Her mother appears to have been very hippy like. Grace compares her to water, “deep and bold and fathoming”. I think that the mother understood her daughter well, and because of this allowed her to make her own decisions and perhaps learn by her own mistakes. In the second verse she compares her mother to the moon “you were moon’s eye to me, pull and grained and mantling”. Her mother would always look out for Grace, perhaps Grace didn’t always agree with her mother but she always knew that her mother would protect her.
The third verse “you were sunrise to me rise and warm and streaming”. This again shows the Caribbean influence with the reference to the sunrises â€“ more common there than in Wales. Seamus Heaney is an Irish, Roman Catholic, we know his religion from the end of the poem where he drops his father at the church so he can go to confession. Seamus Heaney appears to be reflecting on his relationship with his father, “Here at the churchyard I am slowing down to meet you, the fourth time on common ground”. Why is he driving his father to confession?
He writes “you grunt, and slam the door. I watch another who gropes awkwardly to know his father”. The Roman Catholics use the term father for God. Does his father have to make peace with God because he is dying, is this why Seamus is prepared to meet his father because he may not be around for long”. Seamus Heaney struggles to understand his father. I think that he was a reserved man who when his other son died was terribly upset and Seamus was startled to find that his father didn’t know what to do to make things better.
They appear to have been a family whose life was fairly routine and ordinary, when his mother goes away for a holiday they take her to the airport and his father is upset. “I was shocked at your tears when my mother’s plane took off” he writes “In twelve years you had not been apart for one whole day till this long talked of holiday” Perhaps even though this had been discussed the father didn’t really think the mother would go without him, why did she go away? Perhaps there was another reason, maybe the two parents weren’t getting along anymore.
Having shown his emotions to his son at the airport he is then embarrassed and takes him for a beer. When his father tells Seamus a smutty story he is trying to treat his son like one of his mates, and Seamus writes “We both knew this was an unprecedented breakthrough”. Perhaps his father was finding it easier to get along with his son the older he got. “You asked me to drive up to church, and sit morose as ever”. I think his father was a moody man, never really happy with his life and now has had to make a big decision to confess to God about his life, and tries to hide his feelings by telling his son how to drive the car.
I preferred “Boy driving his father to confession” to “Praise song for my mother” I think it’s because the Irish culture is similar to our own and the references in “Praise Song” do not really mean much to me, also Seamus Heaney poem is more of a story with Grace Nichols poem you have to think about what she means â€“ when she refers to her mother as “pull and grained and mantling”. Perhaps also because I am a son I relate better to “Boy driving his father to confession”.