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David Trotter, 23 June 1988

The Government of the Tongue: The 1986 T.S. Eliot Memorial Lectures, and Other Critical Writings 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 172 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 0 571 14796 8
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... In an interview given in 1979, Seamus Heaney endorsed a fellow writer’s lament that ‘you feel bloody well guilty about writing.’ To judge by this new collection of critical essays, he still feels bloody well guilty about it. Indeed, the essays make the difficult relation between art and life – ‘let us put it more melodramatically and call them Song and Suffering’ – their main theme ...

Room to Rhyme

Michael Longley, 24 September 2015

... in memory of Seamus Heaney I I blew a kiss across the stage to you When we read our poems in Lisdoonvarna Two weeks before you died. Arrayed in straw The Armagh Rhymers turned up at the end. II In the middle of a field in Mourne country Standing side by side, looking straight ahead We peed against a fragment of stone wall, St Patrick’s windbreak, the rain’s urinal ...

Hasped and Hooped and Hirpling

Terry Eagleton: Beowulf, 11 November 1999

translated by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 104 pp., £14.99, October 1999, 9780571201136
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... long been a cockpit of ideological contentions over national origins, pedigrees and continuities. Seamus Heaney, for example, refers casually to Beowulf as being ‘in English’, as though there were some unbroken thread from the speech of Hrothgar to the idiom of William Hague. Oxford’s dilemma was that you needed a philologically based English ...


Tony Harrison, 19 February 2015

... hotel has a whole half-page picture of a poet I know well. The headline’s ‘Seimous xini, Seamus!’ No need to read the efuge or pethane that follow to know Seamus Heaney had died. Some years back we’d dined in the hotel that’s now derelict just behind. His eyes from the picture stare into the ruin. It was ...

Prize Poems

Donald Davie, 1 July 1982

Arvon Foundation Poetry Competion: 1980 Anthology 
by Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney.
Kilnhurst Publishing Company, 173 pp., £3, April 1982, 9780950807805
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Burn this 
by Tom Disch.
Hutchinson, 63 pp., £7.50, April 1982, 0 09 146960 0
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... was quite keen on me.’ What on earth were they looking for – Ted Hughes and Philip Larkin, Seamus Heaney and Charles Causley – that they should have rated Bosley’s heart-warming dexterity (feelingful as well as formal) below, for instance, 18 solid unpunctuated pages of pornographic daydream: Kenneth Bernard’s ‘The Baboon in the Night ...

A Big Life

Michael Hofmann: Seamus Heaney, 4 June 2015

New Selected Poems 1988-2013 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 222 pp., £18.99, November 2014, 978 0 571 32171 1
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... out my cheek; too much live hair.Not knowing the photo of Lowell, I go instead to the picture of Seamus Heaney on the front of the companion volume to this one, New Selected Poems 1966-87, painfully young, worried-looking, Noh-rice-flour-pale, against a dark brick wall. The riot of hair came later, in the 1970s, the period after the epochal move out of ...

We did and we didn’t

Seamus Perry: Are yez civilised?, 6 May 2021

On Seamus Heaney 
by R.F. Foster.
Princeton, 228 pp., £14.99, September 2020, 978 0 691 17437 2
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... When​ the posthumous Collected Poems of W.H. Auden appeared in 1976, Seamus Heaney wrote an appreciative review for the magazine Hibernia in which he tolda story about a Ballymena listener calling the BBC one morning in 1969, after the Northern Ireland news had given a lot of coverage to speeches by civil rights leaders the previous evening ...

Dome Laureate

Dennis O’Driscoll: Simon Armitage, 27 April 2000

Killing Time 
by Simon Armitage.
Faber, 52 pp., £6.99, December 1999, 0 571 20360 4
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Short and Sweet: 101 Very Short Poems 
edited by Simon Armitage.
Faber, 112 pp., £4.99, October 1999, 9780571200016
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... association of largeness of scale with magnitude of achievement (in spite of the example set by Seamus Heaney and Wislawa Szymborska, both represented in Short and Sweet, whose Nobel Prize-sized reputations were earned through lyric-length writings). Since the launch of his trail-blazing first collection, Zoom!, in 1989, when he was 26, Armitage has ...

Be Nice to Mice

Colin Burrow: Henryson, 8 October 2009

‘The Testament of Cresseid’ and ‘Seven Fables’ 
by Robert Henryson, translated by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 183 pp., £12.99, June 2009, 978 0 571 24928 2
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... to Cresseid after she abandons Troilus. It begins with the author in a ‘doolie sessoun’ (Seamus Heaney translates this as ‘a gloomy time’, but Henryson just means the chilly start of spring). He starts to read Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, but then picks up ‘ane uther quair’ (‘a different volume’, as ...

Charmed Quarantine

James Wood, 21 March 1996

Soul Says: On Recent Poetry 
by Helen Vendler.
Harvard, 266 pp., £15.95, June 1995, 0 674 82146 7
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The Breaking of Style: Hopkins, Heaney, Graham 
by Helen Vendler.
Harvard, 100 pp., £18.95, January 1996, 0 674 08121 8
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The Given and the Made: Strategies of Poetic Redefinition 
by Helen Vendler.
Faber, 137 pp., £7.99, April 1995, 0 571 17078 1
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... prose – John Ashbery, James Merrill, A.R. Ammons, Amy Clampitt, Charles Simic, Dave Smith, Seamus Heaney, Louise Glück, Jorie Graham and Rita Dove. Vendler is in love with the lyric, indeed so in love with it that she befriends strangers who appear to resemble it: in her collection of review-essays, Soul Says, she converts all her chosen subjects ...

Social Arrangements

John Bayley, 30 December 1982

The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry 
edited by Blake Morrison and Andrew Motion.
Penguin, 208 pp., £1.95, October 1982, 0 14 042283 8
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The Rattle Bag 
edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes.
Faber, 498 pp., £10, October 1982, 0 571 11966 2
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... make it so, and no doubt they would not want to try. The Irish poets, even the potent figure of Seamus Heaney, are not outside these general tendencies, though no doubt some of the charisma of Ulster poets comes from the fact that distinction there is grimly real and community not a figure of speech. Such straightforwardness affords relief to a ...

Everything is susceptible

Douglas Dunn, 20 March 1980

Poems 1962-1978 
by Derek Mahon.
Oxford, 117 pp., £5.75, November 1979, 0 19 211898 6
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The Echo Gate 
by Michael Longley.
Secker, 53 pp., £3, November 1979, 0 436 25680 0
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Poets from the North of Ireland 
edited by Frank Ormsby.
Blackstaff, 232 pp., £6.50, October 1979, 9780856402012
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... as much as nature itself are the sources of his metamorphosising imagination. Unlike Ted Hughes or Seamus Heaney, he has never felt the need to make his diction coincide with the rugged or violent nature he depicts. In a previously uncollected poem, ‘A Kind of People’, he writes: Umbrellas and parasols, Like old navy raincoats, Sewing ...

A Susceptible Man

Ian Sansom: The Unhappy Laureate, 4 March 1999

Living in Time: The Poetry of C. Day Lewis 
by Albert Gelpi.
Oxford, 246 pp., £30, March 1998, 0 19 509863 3
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... and its content, and they deserve our attention. When Helen Vendler begins her recent book on Seamus Heaney, for example, ‘I am grateful to Seamus Heaney, first and foremost, for all the invaluable poetry and prose that he has added to the store of literature in English,’ you can be fairly sure that ...

Cardigan Arrest

Robert Potts: Poetry in Punglish, 21 June 2007

Look We Have Coming to Dover! 
by Daljit Nagra.
Faber, 55 pp., £8.99, February 2007, 978 0 571 23122 5
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... by Newsnight Review, a programme which tends to restrict its poetry discussions to the likes of Seamus Heaney. One well-meaning, napkin-fluttering commentator described Nagra as ‘the voice of British Asian poetry’. But given that his collection works pretty hard to make that epithet impossible, it is worth thinking about what is happening ...

You’ve listened long enough

Colin Burrow: The Heaneid, 21 April 2016

Aeneid: Book VI 
translated by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 53 pp., £14.99, March 2016, 978 0 571 32731 7
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... In​ one of those engagingly innocent-seeming anecdotes Seamus Heaney so skilfully used in both his poems and his prose, he relates (in an essay on Patrick Kavanagh from 1985) that one of his aunts ‘planted a chestnut in a jam jar’ in the year of his birth. In due course the seedling was planted out and grew to a fine height ...

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