The narrator allows you to slip into the daydream with the illusion of a temperament, but then pulls you back slightly when he reverts to free-verse. Through the rest of the poem, he utilizes other rhyme schemes to keep the reader reading. Haynes use of consonance and assonance brings a musical quality to the reading that helps add to its calming nature. The appeal of this poem is its simplicity. You do not need to read it repeatedly in order to uncover deeper meaning. Haney simply invites you to enjoy. The speaker in this poem is a writer.
The son and grandson of farmers who has chosen, for some unknown reason, not to follow in his family’s footsteps, but to choose his own path, write his own story. The writer does not look down on his father and grandfather for their labor-intensive Job. In fact, he seems to revere them, and their hard work. His reference to his own pen as “squat” gives it a disdainful feel. His admiration for his father and grandfather is evident in lines 15 and 16 where he says, “By God, the old man could handle a spade. Just like his old man. The setting of this mom begins at the narrator’s desk in an upstairs room of a home. The narrator hears his father gardening below the window and quickly shifts back in time twenty years. The narrator never bothers to describe his physical location, choosing instead to focus on his memories of the redolent smells of the past. We can assume, based on the author’s name as well as his reference to agriculture, such as potatoes and peat, that the poem takes place in Ireland. The narrator utilizes descriptions of the surrounds to entice all five senses of the reader and draw them into the daydream with him.
The form of the stanzas serves to effectively move you from one scene to another. The first serves to place the narrator at his desk with his pen. He looks at his pen like a blunt tool, a gun that could possibly cause more harm than good. In line 1 he holds it between his finger and thumb where is Just sits there looking dangerous. The second stanza draws the focus to his father in the garden below. The consistent sights and sounds of his father gardening pull him twenty years in to the past.
The third stanza bombards your senses, and allows the reader to see the physicality of he narrator’s father’s existence as well as giving you the initial indication of the enjoyment the narrator felt helping his father in his youth, when in line 14 he refers to loving the cool hardness of the potatoes. The fourth stanza is a bridge to take the reader further into the past by comparing the narrator’s father and his father’s father. The fifth stanza demonstrates the narrator’s hero-worship of his grandfather. In lines 17 and 18, Haney writes: “My grandfather cut more turf in a day Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
We know that the idea of an older man being stronger, and faster than much younger men is doubtful, but to the narrator, the abilities of his grandfather cannot be beat by anyone else. The sixth stanza further bombards your senses, this time bringing in smells and sounds to keep you in the story, while simultaneously pulling you out as the narrator emphasizes his lack of admiration for his own career choice. The final stanza pulls you fully out of the dream, and into reality where you see the author decide to attempt to make his career choice as rueful as his patriarchs’.
The author’s use of sensory description allows the reader to Join the narrator’s Journey through the past in order to come back to the present and see his own career choice in a new light. The author no longer sees his pen like a dangerous gun. Instead, his decision to “dig with it” in the final line allows the conclusion that the author will use his pen like a tool to create and grow something instead of destroy it, thereby following in his family’s footsteps to bring something necessary into the world.