On Seamus Heaney

Roy Foster. Princeton Univ., $19.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-691-17437-2
Foster (Vivid Faces), a Queen Mary University professor of Irish history and literature, delivers a succinct but insightful critical biography that puts the poetry of Seamus Heaney (1939–2013) firmly in the context of his life and times. Often referring back to the original drafts of Heaney’s work and correspondence to follow his artistic evolution, Foster traces the arc of Heaney’s career, from his early days in his native Northern Ireland—as a childhood literary prodigy in Derry and then as part of a circle of talented young Belfast writers—to his emergence onto a wider international stage. Though Foster’s admiration for Heaney is obvious, he gives a balanced account of how Heaney’s writing has been received, registering criticisms that Heaney’s poems, particularly in his seminal 1975 collection, North, refuse to take an explicit stance on the Troubles’ sectarian violence. Foster also shows that Heaney’s most significant early poetic influences—William Wordsworth and Gerard Manley Hopkins—were English, and that Heaney, in his own words, aimed “to take the English lyric and make it eat stuff that it has never eaten before... like all the messy and, it would seem, incomprehensible obsessions in the North [of Ireland].” This reflective and incisive study works both as an academic research aid and as an accessible primer for general poetry readers. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 06/05/2020
Release date: 08/01/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 1 pages - 978-0-691-21147-3
Paperback - 248 pages - 978-0-691-23404-5
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