cover image Spirit Level

Spirit Level

Seamus Heaney, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $18 (81p) ISBN 978-0-374-26779-7

As the title suggests, this new collection from the 1995 winner of the Nobel Prize is a study in balance. Heaney reveals how simple things, such as a thimble or a swing, can hold the weight of history-and how history can alter the emotional weight of an object. ""Two Lorries"" takes the romantic innocence of a coalman's truck, circa 1940, with its driver who stops to flirt with the poet's mother, and measures it against a present-day ""heavier, deadlier one, set to explode."" Meanwhile, the poems revel in wordplay. A favorite tactic is the repetition of words within a lines or stanzas, which can yield such simplicity as in ""Bisected sunlight in the sunlit yard,"" or be as savvy as a politico's speech: ""Like the disregarded ones we turned against/ Because we'd failed them by our disregard."" Heaney, at the peak of his career, is the fulcrum of two Irelands: one that is lyrical and lush with tradition and love; another that is ticking and could ""catch the heart off guard and blow it open."" (June)