Seamus Heaney Poetry: British Analysis
Almost from the beginning of his poetic career, Seamus Heaney gained public recognition for poems rooted deep in the soil of Northern Ireland and flowering in subtle rhythms and nuanced verbal melodies. In many respects, he pursues a return to poetry’s foundations in Romantic meditations on nature and explorations of the triple relationship among words, emotions, and the imagination. Heaney’s distinctive quality as a poet is that he is at once parochial and universal, grounded in particular localities and microcultures yet branching out to touch every reader. Strangely, this unusual “here and everywhere” note remains with him even when he changes the basic subject matter of his poetry, as he has done frequently. His command of what William Blake called “minute particularity” allows him to conjure up a sense of the universal even when focusing on a distinct individuality—to see “a world in a grain of sand.” He makes the unique seem familiar. Because his success at this was recognized early, he was quickly branded with the label “greatest Irish poet since Yeats”—an appellation that, however laudatory, creates intolerable pressure and unrealizable expectations. Neo-Romantic he certainly is, but not in William Butler Yeats’s vein; Heaney is less mythic, less apocalyptic, less mystical, and much more material and elemental.
In many respects Heaney’s art is conservative, especially in technique. Unlike the forms of the iconoclastic...
(The entire section is 6225 words.)
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