cover image District and Circle

District and Circle

Seamus Heaney, . . Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $20 (78pp) ISBN 978-0-374-14092-2

The latest from the Irish Nobel laureate may be his best in more than a decade. Celebrations of everyday objects (a fireman's helmet, a sledgehammer, an anvil), homages to and elegies for other poets (George Seferis, Pablo Neruda, Czeslaw Milosz) and gleaming recollections from the author's rural youth dominate this lyrical volume, which stands out as well for its diversity of forms: the supple pentameters Heaney perfected in such 1990s volumes as Seeing Things rub shoulders with prose poems, rough-hewn quatrains and slower-paced free verse reminiscent of the 1970s poems that made his name. Many efforts strike a ground note of nostalgia: "A Clip" remembers the "one-roomed, one-chimney house" where Heaney got his first haircut, "Senior Infants" looks back at primary school. Yet for all his Irish rootedness, Heaney's newest work remains international (poems set in the London Underground, the Danish bog where he set famous earlier poems, and in a warm and pleasant Italy) and unboundedly global: one of the strongest short lyrics, "Hofn," wonders at a newly melting glacier, anxious about global warming, yet astonished by the ice's remaining immensities, its "grey-gristed earth-pelt, aeon-scruff," "its coldness that still seemed enough/ To iceblock the plane window dimmed with breath." (May)