Sunlight pillars through glass, probes each desk
For milk-tops, drinking straws and the old dry crusts.
The music strides to challenge it
Mixing memory and desire with chalk dust.
Think back to when you were at Primary School, which is so important for you to understand this poem. Remember those happy times, the things you cherished so much. Don’t just think of the games you played; try to remember how you were taught and how different that was compared to when you got older and went to Secondary School. Lessons were fun back then, weren’t they? Learning was always more practical and enjoyable and 'The Play Way' represents this.
My lesson notes read: Teacher will play
Beethoven’s Concerto Number Five
And class will express themselves freely
In writing. One said: ‘Can we jive?’
'The Play Way' is a poem written by Seamus Heaney and was published in 1966. Heaney was a Catholic, born in Northern Ireland in 1939. After studying at Queen’s University in Belfast he spent a short time working as a schoolteacher and then later he became a full-time writer, since then his work has included pieces about Ireland’s landscape, history, politics and religion in addition to his own personal ideas from his background. Heaney actually won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995 and is said to be one the finest poets around in England today.
When I produced the record, but now
The big sounds has silenced them. Higher
And firmer, each authoritative note
Pumps the classroom up as tight as a tyre
The poem is about a teacher remembering a lesson, which he has given to his class. Obviously, it was quite memorable as every detail is accounted for and remembered quite precisely. A teacher of mine once said that the best lessons were those that weren’t planned so well because they gave you the freedom to really teach what is important, and that is their own personal experience. In this poem we can gather that the lesson the teacher is currently teaching is music. There is a clear rhythm to this poem because of many rhyming couplets – this is very effective. Using rhyming couplets means that the poem is almost turned into a song – a poem about music lesson that has the rhythm of a song, how cunning!
Working its private spell behind eyes
That stare wide. They have forgotten me
For once. The pens are busy, the tongues mime
Their blundering embrace of the free
The title ‘The Play Way’ is said to be an interesting use of words because it can have two very different meanings. It could mean that the teacher has chosen to teach his class through play, which is said to be very effective because it is so practical. However, it can also be twisted to mean something totally different. As the poem is about the teaching of music it could represent the playing of a piece of music. Throughout the poem Heaney can be rather ambiguous and we get the impression that he has done this purposely in order to keep the reader guessing about the meaning of some sections of the poem.
Word. A silence charged with sweetness
Breaks short on lost faces where I see
New looks. Then notes stretch taut as snares. They trip
To fall into themselves unknowingly.