Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Part 1 of this three-part collection contains poems that recount personal events and objects from Heaney’s life. In one entry, the poet and his sons fly a kite that becomes emblematic of both the resiliency and the fragility of the human spirit. In another, the fabric of a bathrobe removed from its wearer by her lover is likened to the cloth of religious vestments, simultaneously elevating human sexuality to the level of the divine and returning the spiritual realm to the bodily. These slice-of-life poems capture individual images, snapshots of particular scenes and moments in the poet’s life. Collectively viewed as an album, they reinforce what it means to be human.
The title of this collection derives from the middle section, “Station Island.” This twelve-part sequence focuses on pilgrimages, both religious and literary. En route to Lough Derg, a traditional destination for devout Irish Catholics, the pilgrim, apparently the poet Heaney, encounters deceased acquaintances and literary personages and engages them in dialogue. Central to their conversations is the role of the artist in relation to national, political, and religious concerns. Certain characters express anger that the poet has not joined the fight that ended their own lives. Others advise the poet to avoid participation in social movements, not merely to preserve the poet’s life but to keep pure the poet’s craft. Eventually the pilgrim meets James Joyce. The iconic Irish...
(The entire section is 457 words.)
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