Giving Their Word: Conversations with Contemporary Poets

By Steven Ratiner | Go to book overview
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5
—THE WORDS WORTH SAYING
Seamus
Heaney

THERE ARE FEW POETS OF THIS CENTURY who have received as much critical acclaim and public scrutiny as Ireland's Seamus Heaney. In reviewing his collection Seeing Things, the London Times critic compared its arrival with the publication of “Keats's Odes and Milton's 1645 collection. Mr. Heaney bristled visibly at the mention of this—not simply because of his inherent modesty; as a professor of literature, he regards the past masters too highly to count himself comfortably in their company. Ironically, the great expectations his work has generated also serve to appropriate some measure of his freedom—something too hard-won and cherished to be easily surrendered.

From his earliest books, he was hailed with the accolade “the new Yeats, an honor that carried with it an enormous burden. A native of County Derry, he felt pressure to write more about “the Troubles” of Northern Ireland. He was virtually accused of abandonment when, seeking the

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