In discussing the technique of writing, Seamus Heaney conjures a water diviner as a metaphor.  At first glance far-fetched, as he follows it through, he builds a close parallel between the function of a diviner and that of a poet, one working with water, the other with words. 

And if I were asked for a figure who represents pure technique, I would say a water diviner.  You can’t learn the craft of dousing or divining – it is a gift for being in touch with what is there, hidden and real, a gift for mediating between the latent resource and the community that wants it current and released … The diviner resembles the poet in his function of making contact with what lies hidden, and in his ability to make palpable what was sensed or raised. 

For a rich selection of other Heaney similes and metaphors, see our celebration of Beowulf, both his version and that of Kevin Crossley-Holland.

May you have the means to connect the ‘latent resource and the community that wants it’, in whichever realm you work. 

See also further writing metaphors by Heaney, including a ripening apple, the resemblance between verse and masonry, and writing as a skein of thread. 


Source: Seamus Heaney, Finders Keepers: Selected prose 1971-2001 (London: Faber and Faber, 2003), p. 20

Image credit: Thomas Pennant (1726-98), A Tour in Wales (1781), National Library of Wales


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest