In addition to his well-regarded verse, Nobel laureate poet Seamus Heaney has amassed a body of prose works over the last 30-plus years, previously published chiefly in three separate books. Finders Keepers: Selected Prose 1971-2001, offers a "best of" (of sorts) as Heaney sifts through previous writings and offers a variety of strong works, from memoir to lecture transcripts to literary criticism.
Long regarded as one of Northern Ireland's premier contemporary poets, this volume shows us that Heaney has a sharp critical eye as well, giving us probing analyses of his literary mentors (such as William Wordsworth, Robert Burns, and W.B. Yeats), European poets (Edwin Muir, Philip Larkin, and Ted Hughes to name but a few), and other prominent European and American poets (T.S. Eliot, Czeslaw Milosz, Sylvia Plath). Additionally, Heaney includes pieces on the writing process and his evolution as a writer that are insightful and engaging. In "Recent Poetry from Northern Ireland," Heaney describes what the poet sets out to achieve:
In that liberated moment when the lyric discovers its buoyant completion, when the timeless formal pleasure comes to its fullness and exhaustion, in those moments of self-justification and self-obliteration the poet makes contact with the plane of consciousness where he is at once intensified in his being and detached from his predicaments.
Whether you're a fan of Heaney's poems or not, Finders Keepers: Selected Prose 1971-2001 is an excellent critical resource--one into which it is well worth digging. --Michael Ferch --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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.
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