FINDERS KEEPERS: Selected Prose 1971–2001

Seamus Heaney, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $30 (432p) ISBN 978-0-374-15496-7

Ireland's most recent Nobel laureate offers up many old, and some new, critical and autobiographical essays in this invitingly capacious volume, which reprints most of his previous books of prose, from Preoccupations (1980) to the Oxford lectures in The Redress of Poetry (1995). The book, like its title, both "expresses glee and stakes a claim," as Heaney remarks. Subjects of glee (or appreciation, anyway) include several major (and some minor) poets, among them Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, John Clare, W.H. Auden, W.B. Yeats and Patrick Kavanagh, all examined in the literary criticism that makes up the second and longest of the book's three parts. Heaney as critic both offers insight into the makings of others' verse and shows how his readings of others' poetry (such as Clare's and Kavanagh's) have informed the making of his own. More general pieces examine, for example, "The Irish Poet in Britain" and the place of poets in the classroom. Part three collects recent book reviews and short magazine pieces, among them Heaney's memorial to Joseph Brodsky and his famous division of Paul Muldoon's oeuvre into "muldoodles" and "mulboons." Of equal or broader interest are the personal reflections in the volume's first section, which moves from the "secret nests" of Heaney's childhood to Belfast in the 1960s and the Irish peace process of the 1990s. Evocative, bedazzling and fruitful in its implications, Heaney's prose has become a necessary complement to his poetry. (May)

Forecast:Shelved side-by-side with his Collected Poems, Heaney's tomes should sell well for years to come, with this book coming strongly off the blocks. Buyers should be aware that this volume does not include Heaney's Nobel lecture ("Crediting Poetry"), presumably because it's in print at the back of the Collected.