When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Throughout this poem Heaney uses alliteration to express the physical nature of digging; this is a little ironic, since the speaker himself does not dig and notes that he is a writer, not a farmer. He uses repeated "s" sounds in phrases like "squelch and slap/Of soggy peat" to imitate the squelching and slapping that he describes. The phrase "curt cuts of an edge" also mimics the very thing it describes with its sound. Repeated "g" sounds replicate the grinding sounds of digging.