In his Nobel lecture, Seamus Heaney commended the achievement of Yeats, whose 'work does what the necessary poetry does, which is to touch 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.' It is a fair comment of what he himself has done. (Frank Kermode)
Nobel laureate Heaney is an earthy and mythic poet who channels the music and suffering of Ireland and, beyond that, the spiral of cultivation and destruction that sustains and endangers humankind. These are loamy, time-saturated poems, at once humble and exalted, taproots reaching into the underworld, flowers opening to the sun … Heaney puts faith in the actual, be it the wind, a kite, or an extended hand. (Donna Seaman, Booklist)
In these poems Mr. Heaney casts vigorously about through moments in his life, from childhood through restless middle age. The poems read less like nostalgia than the signs of a still-vital poet feeling along the walls of his own cranium, his own complicated history … [Heaney's] authority, in Human Chain, is undiminished. (Dwight Garner, The New York Times)
Heaney still writes with the passion, freshness and vigor of a young man … The book is a joy on every level. (Troy Jollimore, The Washington Post)
Heaney has achieved a hard-won clarity of vision. Here, he renders memories with crystalline precision as he distills and contemplates the accumulations of a life. The poems' luminous clarity, so free of excess and easy emotion, ought to prove once and for all that Heaney is no sentimentalist . . . These poems refuse outright consolation and offer, instead, a fleeting sense of connection between living and dead--the human chain of the book's title. (Heather Clark, Harvard Review)
This newest collection of poems by Seamus Heaney contains multiple poems that will certainly be included in any final selected poems; that alone makes the book worth reading. Poems such as 'The Baler' exhibit all the essential voicing and lean nuanced diction we associate with Heaney's middle period onward. Other poems continue the Heaney of palpable sonic texturing that we first experienced in poems like 'Death of a Naturalist' and 'Churning Day.' One striking poem in this book is 'Route 110,' which moves like elegy through memory and grief, with Virgil's Aeneid intermittently breaking in and hovering like a specter, a caution, a paradigm of the epic question of each human life. It is a remarkable poem that never feels didactic or 'learned' . . . This is a beautiful collection that demonstrates Heaney's continued poetic vitality. (Fred Dings, World Literature in Review)
About the Author
Seamus Heaney was born in Northern Ireland. Death of a Naturalist, his first collection, appeared in 1966, and since then he has published poetry, criticism, and translations that have established him as one of the leading poets of his generation. He has twice won the Whitbread Book of the Year award, for The Spirit Level (1996) and Beowulf (1999). In 1995 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. District and Circle, his eleventh collection of poems, was published in 2006 and was awarded the T.S. Eliot Prize.