Most of the poems in this book worked extremely well for me in this sense. Sean O'Brien's new collection, 'November', is due from Picador in February. As far as I recall, I bombarded them with Heaney, Szymborska and Kipling, and talk about justice and politics expressed in poetry and art. They just seem like short paragraphs about children going to school. His mother, walking with a pan of ash from the fire, and his father among cattle and the noise of market, are transfigured, like inhabitants of a Virgilian underworld. This is number 242 of the very special and limited run of The Human Chain - with a cloth spine this edition sits in a beautiful slip case and is signed by Seamus Heaney.
Like his friend and contemporary Michael Longley, Heaney is the fortunate recipient of a Classical education. Be mindful of them as they stand and wait For the burn of the paid-out ropes to cool, Their slight lightheadedness and incredulity To pass, those ones who had known him all along. Hinting, but never direct, one senses that Heaney is describing the search for a proper burial suit. Signed by the author to the title page. He is a master of immediacy, of enabling the reader to see and feel and hear and taste.
I discovered a poem published in a mainstream woman's magazine about 'the troubles'. Even the ambiguous photograph on the jacket cover of this fine book -- human nerve? Obviously I was stuck by how a word that has no literal meaning can still make perfect sense, as long as the poem as a whole works. About this Item: Faber and Faber, London, 2010. The final letting go is the one-off loss of everything. His words carry tremendous authority and power.
In one sense his youthful sack-tossing days are over and will not come again. Heaney always gives a lot in his bracing, spare and language-rich lines, and this collection, an earthy and yet somehow tender encounter with mortality, is no different. The triple line, with its echo of terza rima, reels in and out, re-gathering to achieve the tension of resolution - a movement clearly suited to the alert, considering melodies that Heaney so often plays. So, in reading Human Chain, I was again dazzled by his subtlety. These are loamy, time-saturated poems, at once humble and exalted, taproots reaching into the underworld, flowers opening to the sun … Heaney puts faith in the actual, be it the wind, a kite, or an extended hand. But Heaney can be brighter, too. The answer, one hopes, is self-evident.
The work itself must try to do so, conducted in the ethical spirit that Heaney's poems disclose. The Re-reading this, for the first time since Heaney's death, was a strange experience: ever-conscious that there was no more work to come, I found myself slowing down, not wanting it to end. Howev I found this book hidden in my filing cabinet in school today, and remembered that I had taught the title poem last year to explain how context matters to understand a situation. He adds drama to news clips. Yet his poetry does have layers.
These are poems about the chain of being and about how we're all linked. Can we ask any more of a poet than this? Dust Jacket Condition: Near Fine. And that makes all the difference. Rises, and my hand is like a spindle Unspooling, the kite a thin-stemmed flower Climbing and carrying, carrying farther, higher The longing in the breast and planted feet And gazing face and heart of the kite flier Until the string breaks and - separate, elate - The kite takes off, itself alone, a windfall. Frequently they're identified by name. Heaney casts vigorously about through moments in his life, from childhood through restless middle age. He remembers standing with his mother and father on Grove Hill among oaks and bluebells, and imagines forgotten details while reflecting on their steady love.
I fell in love with his poetic voice instantly. Plus, who among us isn't enchanted by a lilting Irish brogue? But of course everything must. Frequently they're identified by name. The other day I heard a dramatic reading of Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky on the radio. And now it hovers, tugs, veers, dives askew, Lifts itself, goes with the wind until It rises to loud cheers from us below. I am a lover, rather than a scholar, of his work.
His words carry tremendous authority and power. Other poems display a Virgilian pietas for the dead--friends, neighbors, family--that is yet wholly and movingly vernacular. I feel older after having read these poems. As well as books them I am awe-struck in the presence of such great poetry written by such a masterful wielder of words. Though I'd probably put it a rank below his very best work, I have no hesitation in saying that I enjoyed 'Human Chain' more than any Heaney collection since 'The Haw Lantern'.
Heaney's voice and his experience and the Irish landscape, both ecological and political, are more than enough. I will read this collection again, but I want to be sure to have read the Aeneid first. It's awkward and really doesn't add anything to the poems. Heaney's parents have long figured in his work, and the new book opens with five poems which revisit them on an evening walk in the fields, or at a wedding meal. Seriously though, the fact is a lot of Heaney's references are lost on me providing yet another instance of the book being smarter than the reader. And that makes all the difference. The more musically exuberant manifestations of Heaney's skill are set aside here in favour of a bare simplicity of utterance which nonetheless performs a complex series of tasks.