From Library Journal
In his 1995 Nobel lecture, Heaney speaks earnestly about the role of poetry in everyday life?it must be "not only a surprising variation played upon the world, but a retuning of the world itself"?an instrument of shock by which the perception of reality is set right, or at least set anew. Certainly Heaney's own poetry aspires to this goal, assisted by the cobblestone physicality of Irish speech ("And the train tore past with the stoker yelling/ Like a balked king from his iron chariot") and the tragic, almost surreal political climate of Northern Ireland. His latest collection draws on the past-personal, historical, mythic?to articulate an innocence recollected in bitter knowledge, prefigurings of a present discerned only in hindsight. Vivid sounds and smells of childhood compete with acrid reminders of yesterday's truck bombing ("Two Lorries") or drive-by assassination ("Keeping Going"). Nothing?not even memory?Heaney implies, is truly safe, and there is "No such thing/ as innocent/ bystanding"; nevertheless, he strives to create the balance that poetry makes possible, defined in his Nobel lecture as touching "the base of our sympathetic nature while taking in at the same time the unsympathetic reality of the world to which that nature is constantly exposed." The reader's challenge is not to be carried helplessly forward by random events but to take sides, to risk the exposure?of conscience, of values?that Heaney risks as poet and to bear the best of what's discovered there into a refigured world. Both books are recommended for most poetry collections.?Fred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, N.Y.
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