For Seamus Heaney, "opened ground" is a necessity--a way of getting to the root of things. The book bearing that name spans three decades, beginning with "Digging," his exhilarating portrait of the artist as a young revolutionary. "Between my finger and my thumb / The squat pen rests; snug as a gun," Heaney boasts (although by the end of the poem, his weapon has metamorphosed into something closer to the spade his grandfather and father once relied upon). The last entry, the sonnet "Postscript," appears some 400 pages later, which makes Opened Ground a capacious selection of his work. But at this point Heaney requires the largest of hold-alls. There are beautiful, pastoral lyrics here, sequences such as "Glanmore Sonnets" and "Clearances," and a multitude of love poems, not solely to his wife but to his parents and children. And in Heaney's hands, small domestic moments and objects--a scrabble board, a swing, a kite, a bed sawn in half to get it downstairs--invariably become both reality and soaring myth.
At the same time, his Ireland is the site of "neighborly murders," and the past and larger world he confronts is one threatened by history and brutal sectarianism. Heaney has declared, "Fear is the emotion that the muse thrives on. That's always there"--and terror is pervasive in his "land of password, handgrip, wink and nod, / Of open minds as open as a trap." Many of his poems that explore the Troubles reflect his own considerable concern that he has long "confused evasion and artistic tact." Others might be termed self-reflexive, since Heaney uses them to unearth his own role. "Kinship" features a simple, brilliant (not to mention canine!) simile:
I step through originsIn a later poem, "From the Frontier of Writing," he compares the struggle for inspiration to being stopped at a roadblock: "And everything is pure interrogation / until a rifle motions you and you move / with guarded unconcerned acceleration." Heaney's gift is dazzling, and would be almost unbearable were it not matched by vigilance, self-doubt, and regret--and his longing for the day in which "justice can rise up / And hope and history rhyme." --Kerry Fried --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
like a dog turning
its memories of wilderness
on the kitchen mat.
For those few readers of poetry unfamiliar with the Nobel laureate's work, and for others who wish for up-to-date representative samplings from a prolific career, this new volume from Heaney will be just the ticket, perhaps the poetry stocking-stuffer of the year. Although we already have a selected from Heaney, running through 1987, and nearly all of his previous 12 books of poems are in print (including an even earlier selected), the post-'87 material collected here is very generous: most of 1996's Spirit Level, as well as Heaney's Nobel Lecture. Looking at the entire arc of his work, one is reminded of the heavy lifting in the earlier books Death of a Naturalist, Wintering Out and North, in which Heaney struggles heroically to find purchase as a poet in a minefield of sectarian contentions. As Heaney finds his voice, that peculiarly wistful and earthy mixture of rural reverie and high public speech (Kavanagh meets Yeats), his interests broaden, and in the middle and later volumes the poet seeks out Greek myths, Irish epics and Scandinavian digs, looking for correlatives apt to his meditations. Throughout, the visceral impact of Heaney's speech is his signature-"All year the flax-dam festered in the heart/ Of the townland; green and heavy-headed/ Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods"-and not written to be tromped through speedily. Better, then, to take short walks in Opened Ground. Although it is not a critically important time for this compilation to appear, the effort to keep the shape of Heaney's continuing body of work in view is a worthy one. He is a major figure, working at full-bore still.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
astounding work of art. In my top three poetry works of the last 100 years.Published 2 months ago by Charles Ferraro
Seamus Heaney is a great poet, in my mind of the Robert Frost type. With Frost, New England came clearly through; with Heaney it is Ireland. Read morePublished 10 months ago by James Ellsworth
Seamus Heaney, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, left the world a better place. His death in 2013 was a blow to all who love his work. Read morePublished 14 months ago by K. Holjes
Some of the most moving and heartfelt poetry from one of the greatest poets of our time. A must read. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Liz
A wonderful collection from a master poet. A true treasure. His last collection of some of his most important works.Published 18 months ago by Christopher Roe
He was our master poet and his loss is deeply felt. One poem a day sustains me. Highly recommended for just about anybody.Published 18 months ago by Kate Bernhardt
This is one collection of poetry that I felt I "must have" on my Kindle. When I have a few minutes I can pull up Opened Ground and read the next few poems and know I'll... Read morePublished 19 months ago by M. Heffington