Seamus Heaney's new collection elicits continuities and solidarities, between husband and wife, child and parent, then and now, inside an intently remembered present - the stepping stones of the day, the weight and heft of what is passed from hand to hand, lifted and lowered. "Human Chain" also broaches larger questions of transmission, as ...
Seamus Heaney's new collection elicits continuities and solidarities, between husband and wife, child and parent, then and now, inside an intently remembered present - the stepping stones of the day, the weight and heft of what is passed from hand to hand, lifted and lowered. "Human Chain" also broaches larger questions of transmission, as lifelines to the inherited past. There are newly minted versions of anonymous early Irish lyric, poems which stand at the crossroads of oral and written, and other 'hermits songs' which weigh equally in their balance the craft of scribe and the poet's early calling as scholar. A remarkable sequence entitled 'Route 101' plots the descent into the underworld in the Aeneid against single moments in the arc of a life, from a 1950s childhood to the birth of the poet's first grandchild. Other poems display a Virgilian pietas for the dead - friends, neighbours, family - which is yet wholly and movingly vernacular. "Human Chain" also adapts a poetic 'herbal' by the Breton poet Guillevic - lyrics as delicate as ferns, which puzzle briefly over the world of things which excludes human speech, while affirming the interconnectedness of phenomena, as of a self-sufficiency in which we too are included. "Human Chain" is Seamus Heaney's thirteenth collection of poems.
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Publishers Weekly, 2010-08-16 Nostalgia and memory, numinous visions and the earthy music of compound adjectives together control the short poems and sequences of the Irish Nobel laureate's 14th collection of verse, a work of familiar strengths and unparalleled charm. Old teachers, schoolmates, farmhands, and even the employees of an "Eelworks arrive transfigured through Heaney's command of sound: a schoolmate whose family worked in the eel trade "would ease his lapped wrist// From the flap-mouthed cuff/ Of a jerkin rank with eel oil,// The abounding reek of it/ Among our summer desks. The title poem applies Heaney's gift for physical mimesis to an image from the day's news: "bags of meal passed hand to hand... by the aid workers remind the poet of the grain-sacks he swung and dragged in his own youth. Other pages remember, and praise, libraries and classrooms-from grade school, from Harvard, and from medieval Irish monasteries, with their "riddle-solving anchorites. For all the variety of Heaney's framed glimpses, though, the standout poems grow from occasions neither trivial nor topical: Heaney in 2006 had a minor stroke, and the discreet analogies and glimpsed moments in poems such as "Chanson d'Aventure (about a ride in an ambulance) and "In the Attic ("As I age and blank on names) bring his characteristic warmth and subtlety to mortality, rehabilitation, recent trauma, and old age. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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