Human Chain

In this, the title poem of the collection, dedicated to Terence Brown, Heaney adapts the ‘shared burden’ theme of Miracle and marks the backbreaking work undertaken by aid workers dedicated to the survival of victims of Third World social and political disaster. In the final couplet Heaney reflects on his own dwindling potential as a link in the human chain. Heaney is […]

A Mite-Box

The poem renews and down-sizes the charity theme in Human Chain, from large-scale international aid to the poet’s experiences as a youngster carrying a collecting-box round the parish in search of donations towards ‘foreign missions’.  Despite the numbing effect of stroke the memory triggered from Heaney’s childhood is very much alive: But still/ to feel;  Heaney was skilled at the collector’s rôle adopting an […]

Slack

Heaney’s picture from the 1940s and 50s era is all the richer for recollections of domestic detail. i Heaney cannot settle on the mots justes to describe the consistency of slack: Not coal dust, more the weighty grounds of coal. Slack was delivered by  lorryman … in open bags that he would tip: vent into a corner, A sullen pile indicative of gloomy times. One positive for a […]

A Herbal

A sequence of 19 short poems, the longest 15 lines, imitating the work of a 20th century Breton poet. The foreword’s after suggests that Heaney, in addition to the poetic shape and form of the genre, may be offering his version of lines from the original.  The sequence produces plants with human voices, emotions and characteristics operating in natural context. Heaney is intimately […]

Derry Derry Down

The title is taken from the refrain of The Keeper, a traditional song, ostensibly about a gamekeeper searching for female deer but loaded with the insinuation of sexual encounter. Heaney’s speaker uses a fairy-story atmosphere to describe a pleasure sequence from his own life. The two experiences hint at the deliberate sensuality of the original song. i  With innuendo at the discretion […]

The Baler

The solid, repetitive sound of a vital piece of agricultural machinery unearths deeper feelings in a convalescent Heaney: about mortality; about self; about a specific friend in memoriam. Heaney has hit upon something as familiar to him and as unquestioned as the heartbeat: the All day …Ongoing sound of the baler in operation; its clunk, like that of the heart we feel beating within […]

Death of a Painter

In his obituary for the painter, Nancy Wynne Jones, in the Guardian of Wednesday 29 November 2006 Seamus Heaney demonstrated his respect and affection for the deceased artist referring to her paintings as earthy and moist, with rich warm, subtle ochres and reds, “place and palette and spirit all equal”. In his poem Heaney describes what could be seen through the picture-frame the Wynne-Jones’ […]

The Riverbank Field

Heaney dips into literature, tracking back from 14th century Dante to Classical author Virgil around 30 BC. References to the Aenied provide Heaney with the opportunity to show-case his own translation. Heaney’s local riverbank field located firmly in County Derry is given a Virgilian mantle as the poet celebrates the similarities he perceives between his neighbourhood and Virgil’s Elysium. After consideration of a […]

Route 110

A much admired sequence of 12 poems celebrating the arrival of first grand-child, Anna Rose, born to son, Christopher and his wife Jenny. Heaney collapses the distance between the mythical and the personal, setting out Aeneas-like on a journey of his own. I The journey begins in a dusty, down-at-heel (it smells of dry rot and disinfectant) haunt of schoolboys and […]

Canopy

Heaney reflects on a visual arts installation dating from May 1994. The title triggers instant thoughts of primeval forest and the sights and sounds of tree-tops, Heaney’s launch recalls the Spring-is-in-the-air suggestiveness of the most famous of the English madrigals, by Thomas Morley published in 1595 (Now is the Month of Maying).  Spring was in the air in Harvard Yard […]