In the latest issue:

Real Men Go to Tehran

Adam Shatz

What Trump doesn’t know about Iran

Patrick Cockburn

Kaiser Karl V

Thomas Penn

The Hostile Environment

Catherine Hall

Social Mobilities

Adam Swift

Short Cuts: So much for England

Tariq Ali

What the jihadis left behind

Nelly Lahoud

Ray Strachey

Francesca Wade

C.J. Sansom

Malcolm Gaskill

At the British Museum: ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’

James Davidson

Poem: ‘The Lion Tree’

Jamie McKendrick


Jenny Turner

Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny

‘Trick Mirror’

Lauren Oyler

Diary: What really happened in Yancheng?

Long Ling

A Big LifeMichael Hofmann

Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website ( — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.

  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.
New Selected Poems 1988-2013 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 222 pp., £18.99, November 2014, 978 0 571 32171 1
Show More
Show More

Robert Lowell​ has a poem called ‘Picture in The Literary Life, a Scrapbook’ which begins:

A mag photo, I before I was I, or my books –
a listener … A cheekbone gumballs 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 Belfast down to Glanmore in Wicklow, the Noddy Holder whiskers, the period of ‘Exposure’, of ‘long-haired and thoughtful’, of the ‘wood-kerne’ and the ‘inner émigré’. But the cheekbones are there. And a listener for sure. ‘You’ve listened long enough. Now strike your note,’ he has the ghost of Joyce address him in the marvellous ‘Station Island’ sequence from 1984. Tweed jacket, early-model button-down shirt, knitted tie: he looks like a boy at a funeral, serious almost to the point of tears. ‘In the middle of a space that is separate and a little sorrowing’, as Heaney put it once, a line quoted back at him by Dennis O’Driscoll in the epic 2008 book of interviews called Stepping Stones that will stand as a partial monument to both men. If Heaney – who, it turns out, fished only about a dozen times in his life – ever did any ‘Casting and Gathering’, it wasn’t with Ted Hughes, to whom the poem thus entitled is dedicated, but here, in the play of question and answer with O’Driscoll, who died in 2012, predeceasing his great mentor.

‘I, or my books.’ For the duration of this brief, as it were twilit interval, Heaney is still both. It probably sounds foolish, but it is hard to think of a poet to whom being mattered so much, who worked so hard at it, or was so good at it. Even the poems increasingly came to be moments of being, or even spots of being, but there was an awful lot of Heaney outside the poems as well, which keeps the life in a book like Stepping Stones (if indeed there is another book like Stepping Stones), in myriad recordings and photographs, and in the recollections of the many people whose lives he crossed and graced, all over the world. It is still a case of ‘I, and my books’, to vary Lowell. The sound of the voice, the ready laugh, the putting-at-ease, the waggishness, but also the constant and quite unpriggish dignity and thoughtfulness. A big life, much of it lived in public, but never for a public or the public; rather, a great adventure: ‘Well, as Kavanagh said, we have lived/In important places’ (‘The Ministry of Fear’). It is a sobering thing to read O’Driscoll’s ten-page chronology of Heaney’s life (up to 2008): the meetings with famous men, the travel, the lectures and prizes and distinctions, things that are off the map, or off the charts. (Friendship with the empress of Japan? To Delphi to attend the celebrations of the 2500th anniversary of the birth of Sophocles?)

Any life in poetry is a freakish thing in our time, a successful one almost unexampled. The very greatest – Heaney, or Les Murray – have come huge and unlikely distances from obscure origins: ‘Like starlight that is light years on the go/From far away and takes light years arriving.’ Murray’s biographer, Peter Alexander, makes the striking claim that Murray had the poorest background of any English poet since Keats. Enough to bend anyone not double – which is a misnomer really – but half. One might as well go for an astronaut. And yet Heaney is upright, bare-headed through it all, and with a strange, persistent fantasy of being unroofed, of being, in the word he found for it, a ‘wallstead’: ‘He dwelt in himself/like a rook in an unroofed tower’ (‘The Master’); or, ‘Bare wallstead and a cold hearth rained into –/Bright puddle where the soul-free cloud-life roams.’ Offered a choice of building to be in his 1994 Paris Review interview, he chose the Pantheon in Rome, with its circular opening at the centre of the dome. A form of dwelling not unlike a well. This is the more striking in one who so often draws on the metaphor and archaic comfort-language of construction, those ‘clinkered planks’ and ‘thole-pins’, ‘seasoned tongue-and-groove’, ‘coping-stone and chimney breast’. At its barest and simplest it is ‘form mendicant and convalescent’, almost a dream of anti-architecture, ‘unroofed scope Knowledge-freshening wind’, ‘an unhindered goldfinch over ploughland’. An unclutter that trumps the occasional temptation to clutter.

Writing in these pages long ago, Ian Hamilton took mocking issue with something Heaney said to another interviewer: ‘About the only enmity I have is towards pride.’* But it’s the simple truth. When you think of Yeats’s ‘Cast a cold Eye/On Life, on Death./Horseman, pass by!’ or Rilke’s (translated) ‘Rose, oh pure contradiction, joy/of being no one’s sleep under so many/lids’, the sheer peevishness, the withdrawal, the implicit self-adulation, the up-yours-even-unto-the-elbow-and-from-beyond-the-grave of these great souls, Heaney’s (I don’t know what it says on his grave) admirable humanity and unfathomable kindness become even more striking. His rare sense ‘of being here for good in every sense’. The ‘forgetting faith, straining towards good works’. Even the 1995 Nobel lecture, ‘Crediting Poetry’, while checking off the names of a score of poets, is still apt to sound as though he had won the Nobel Peace Prize instead. Such a widely loved and generous man lives on in the many who knew him and are grateful to him and grateful to talk about him, even as he becomes his books, and the books shake down into two, the early and the later Selected, and then one day the one Collected Poems. As Lowell also says, ‘everything printed will come to these back stacks’ and ‘this open book … my open coffin’. A big simplification is in train.

I have read Heaney scores of times but not hundreds of times, and so was surprised that he seemed to make his way into whatever I was doing, even the unlikeliest things. Into Kafka. Into Joseph Roth. He got into everything. Nothing seemed to be free of him, or to go without him. Perhaps it’s because of the contradictory or revisionist impulses you find in him everywhere, so he is all over many arguments. Into the past (the dinnseanchas poems of 1972’s Wintering Out and 1975’s North, much pruned in the selection); into the present moment (beginning with the Glanmore poems in Field Work, his fifth book, published in 1979). Monosyllabic, consonantal, guttural words; a suavely Latinate diction and in the last poems even the heavy presence of actual Latin – incertus (an early alias of Heaney’s) becomes macaronicus! Towards weight, clabber, onomatopoeia, feel; towards light, sleight, suspension and weightlessness (‘a pillar of radiant house-dust’). Collective and put-upon (the rather Edwin Muir-ish ‘From the Canton of Expectation’, where even the – for once lower-case – line beginnings seem to look glum):

When our rebel anthem played the meeting shut
we turned for home and the usual harassment
by militiamen on overtime at roadblocks.

Individual and ecstatic, as in the increasingly un-get-roundable (a Heaney word) sonnet ‘Fosterling’ in Seeing Things (1991):

Me waiting until I was nearly fifty
To credit marvels. Like the tree-clock of tin cans
The tinkers made. So long for air to brighten,
Time to be dazzled and the heart to lighten.

Responsible utterance; impulsiveness and self-delight. Into Ireland (where it sometimes seems Heaney has named every village, seen every sight, walked or driven every yard); away from Ireland, towards the (at least peripheral) UK, the US, latterly even the Mediterranean – as if he had unhooked Hibernia from its moorings and towed it into the Adriatic, or the Aegean, as in the series of six ‘Sonnets from Hellas’, written about the time he learned he was to receive the Nobel Prize:

Mount Parnassus placid on the skyline:
Slieve na mBard, Knock Filiocht, Ben Duan.
We gaelicised new names for Poetry Hill
As we wolfed down horta, tarama and houmos
At sunset in the farmyard, drinking ouzos,
Pretending not to hear the Delphic squeal
Of the steel-haired cailleach in the scullery […]
My head was light, I was hyper, boozed, borean
As we bowled back down towards the olive plain,
Siren-tyred and manic on the horn
Round hairpin bends looped like boustrophedon.

This is exhilarating, exuberant stuff, worth cherishing for that reason alone, almost as much Viking as it is Dublin. Beginning and ending with poetry, but encompassing the whole of life.

As a poet, Heaney wanted to soar and to sing, and ultimately did soar and did sing, as much as his near namesake and exemplar Suibhne, the bird-bard whose story Heaney adapted in Sweeney Astray (‘I prefer the elusive/rhapsody of blackbirds/to the garrulous blather/of men and women’). Here, he was given the greatest possible distance to travel, in the form of his Northern Irish birthright: a mother who was down to earth and a cattle-dealer father who rarely spoke. There is a wonderful moment near the beginning of his Paris Review interview (beautifully conducted by Henri Cole) where Cole asks him, ‘What about the Heaneys? Were they democrats?’ to which Heaney makes the magnificent reply: ‘The Heaneys were aristocrats, in the sense that they took for granted a code of behaviour that was given and unspoken. Argumentation, persuasion, speech itself, for God’s sake, just seemed otiose and superfluous to them. Either you were an initiate of the code or you weren’t.’ And out of that world of ‘speech itself, for God’s sake’ a poet had to emerge! In his Nobel lecture he describes the handicap not just of family but of the environment and ethos of Ulster:

No place in the world prides itself more on its vigilance and realism, no place considers itself more qualified to censure any flourish of rhetoric or extravagance of aspiration. So, partly as a result of having internalised these attitudes through growing up with them, I went for years half-avoiding and half-resisting the opulence and extensiveness of poets as different as Wallace Stevens and Rainer Maria Rilke; crediting insufficiently the crystalline inwardness of Emily Dickinson, all those forked lightnings and fissures of association; and missing the visionary strangeness of Eliot. And these more or less costive attitudes were fortified by a refusal to grant the poet any more licence than any other citizen; and they were further induced by having to conduct oneself as a poet in a situation of ongoing political violence and public expectation.

Signs of this I think are everywhere in Heaney. In a would-be benign doublespeak, different from Shakespeare’s, but every bit as marked and as pervasive, words are doubled up in gangs or split in two. ‘Quell it or fell it.’ ‘Manoeuvrable/yet outmanoeuvred’, ‘hutch and hatch’, ‘bearing up/and bearing out’. Perhaps it’s the ox on the tongue. Later on in that same Nobel lecture you grimace when he says ‘as a poet I am in fact straining towards a strain’ – a half-pun for which his translators certainly won’t have thanked him, if they even got it. ‘Do not waver/Into language. Do not waver in it,’ Heaney says to himself, but that’s as hopeless as Paul Celan telling himself to ‘rise up against/multiple meanings.’ The fact that these poets issue such instructions to themselves at all is proof that they need to.

A hankering (perhaps as much for his sake as for mine) for an unofficial Heaney – along the lines of Michael Hamburger’s book of Rilke, called An Unofficial Rilke – makes me conclude that the official and the unofficial in him are never far from each other, like two sides of the same coin. The poem with ‘boozed’ and ‘borean’ is the one that also has ‘Parnassus’ and ‘boustrophedon’. Perhaps this too has something to do with County Derry: the all-low is as inadmissible or impermissible as the all-high. ‘I like poetry that doesn’t fancy itself up to be poetry,’ he said to Henri Cole, with an expressive use of preposition. I have a vague sense myself of preferring the short-lined poems (‘these wafty little quatrains’ – mostly early) to the long-lined (mostly later), and the informal 12-line ‘squarings’ (1991 and after) to the regular sonnets (of all periods), but there is too much going the other way for that to be truly borne out. Truancy, impulse, spontaneity are never far away, but they are paradoxically aspired towards and then relished with diligence. ‘Like an access of free power’ is a not untypical phrase, but with its belt and two braces it doesn’t sound like an access, or powerful, or free. ‘In time that was extra, unforeseen and free’ from the wonderful ‘Markings’ has more charge, but still sounds highly deliberate. Presumably, a search for the words ‘free’ or ‘freedom’ will always deliver such trammelled, wistful contexts in Heaney. His 1998 post-Nobel single-volume selection, called Opened Ground, includes one uncollected poem called ‘A Transgression’ which features neither in a subsequent collection nor in the new Selected Poems. The subject is a very literal truancy. The young Heaney raises his hand in school, and though unqualified and unentitled, gets to bunk off with some older boys:

If ever I felt ‘heaven’s dome’
Was what I lived beneath, it was that day
I lied myself into my own desire,
Displaced, afraid
At what I’d dared to be ahead
Of time.

I don’t know why Heaney dropped the poem – perhaps too circumstantial, too explicit, the morality that keeps him from enjoying his undeserved liberty too much George Washington-in-Hollywood. But it’s a strange thought: the poem about truancy being subsequently disciplined by the poet.

‘The right balance between insouciance and application’, ‘the intertwining of the “creative” and the “responsible”’, these are always on Heaney’s mind. I have a suspicion that he wrote most of his poems in cars (the only place he could be stimulated, unself-conscious and alone?). ‘Useless’ – even – ‘to think you’ll park and capture it/more thoroughly’ (‘Postscript’). He dreaded turning his study in the attic of the house in Dublin (and before that in Glanmore) into ‘a designer study, a film set rather than a bolt-hole’. He had a sense, at times, of subjects for poems running away from him: his purposiveness, their fugitiveness. I was shocked to learn, from Stepping Stones, that the first time he actually had a whole day’s clear run at anything, it was ‘Bog Queen’ from North in 1975: that’s early mid-career. Much of his work, I think, must have been done ‘on the fly’. He allows the ascription ‘binge-writer’, and once wrote ‘about forty poems’ in a single week in 1969. The 12-line ‘squaring’ was – Heaney-punningly – his compact with informality.

By great​ good luck – but also by his complicated engagement in writing and being – Heaney’s life coincided with a period of (what to call it) pacification, normalisation, partial or hesitant return to civility in Northern Ireland. The classic poems of his thirties and forties, even now probably his best-known and best-loved work, imaginatively and then actually, from close to and then from a distance, are about the Troubles: the later ‘bog poems’ of North, the elegies of Field Work and Station Island, some of the numbed allegorical pieces in The Haw Lantern. But there is no knowing whether or not that will remain the case. I can imagine a more unencumbered Heaney, more personal, more celebratory, some of the political anguish burned off, perhaps a little as happened with his friends Czeslaw Milosz and Joseph Brodsky.

His late poems return to the rustic archaic innocence of Mossbawn and then Bellaghy in County Derry, and it feels like the grateful reassertion of something small and pacific and local that actually never left him: ‘It smelled of hill-fort clay/And cattle dung.’ Even as he followed the great outward rippling of his life, he remained in touch with family and origins. At some point, he became a poet of revisiting: ‘My last things will be first things slipping from me./Yet let all things go free that have survived’ (‘Mint’). He writes about his father, both in age and in his prime, about being taken to school, about the smell of the rack of his old suits (‘The Butts’). (These are the personal, lyrical and heartbreaking poems that twenty years ago Ian Hamilton argued Heaney couldn’t or more likely wouldn’t write.) ‘Keeping Going’, to his farmer brother Hugh, sees Hugh waggishly on his tractor, keeping ‘old roads open by driving on the new ones’. ‘Anahorish 1944’ begins, ‘We were killing pigs when the Americans arrived,’ and ends: ‘As they tossed us gum and tubes of coloured sweets’. In spite of the ominous date, there is no war. Places that were once associated with violence – the Toome road, say (‘One morning early I met armoured cars/In convoy, warbling along on powerful tyres,/All camouflaged with broken alder branches,/ And headphoned soldiers standing up in turrets’), or, more loosely, Tollund or Aarhus in Denmark – come round again in memory, or in mufti, in ‘The Tollund Man in Springtime’, or the lovely late sequence ‘Route 110’. Virgil, the presiding genius of Heaney’s late years, is grafted onto a memory-web of small local journeys:

Once the driver wound a little handle
The destination names began to roll
Fast-forward in their panel, and everything

Came to life. Passengers
Flocked to the kerb like agitated rooks
Around a rookery, all go

But undecided. At which point the inspector
Who ruled the roost in bus station and bus
Separated and directed everybody

By calling not the names but the route numbers
And so we scattered as instructed, me
For Route 110, Cookstown via Toome and Magherafelt.

It may be Charon and the Underworld in disguise, but a new peace is held up against an old peace; terror, murder, sectarianism and occupation all feel a little more remote.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.


Vol. 37 No. 14 · 16 July 2015

Michael Hofmann’s opening quotation from a poem by Robert Lowell in his review of Seamus Heaney brought me back to a memorable night in Kilkenny in 1975 when Lowell and Heaney read together (LRB, 4 June). The night was memorable not just for that reason but also because sitting in the front row was the Soviet ambassador to Ireland, who slept noisily throughout. He had attended a concert of Shostakovich’s music in St Canice’s Cathedral earlier in the evening; Shostakovich had died only days earlier. Much mirth was caused by Lowell’s stream of scathing comments on the ambassador’s evident love of poetry, capitalist poetry especially.

Anthony Candon
Castlebar, County Mayo

send letters to

The Editor
London Review of Books
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address and a telephone number

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.