The Bright Nowhere

By Thomas, Louisa | Newsweek, October 11, 2010 | Go to article overview

The Bright Nowhere


Thomas, Louisa, Newsweek


Byline: Louisa Thomas

Death has long been fodder for Seamus Heaney's poems. This time, it's personal.

As a famous poet, Seamus Heaney is often considered in isolation, but Heaney himself has always focused on what links people, generations, and cultures--questions of inheritance and trans-mission. In the title poem of his new collection, Human Chain, Heaney describes aid workers as they pass bags of meal from one to another: "Nothing surpassed/That quick unburdening, backbreak's truest payback,/A letting go which will not come again./Or it will, once. And for all." That "for all," of course, is death. The lightness of hands accustomed to bearing weight is an arresting and satisfying image, a kind of catch-and-release typical of Heaney's poetry. Read in sequence with the two poems that precede it, however, what is evocative becomes more unsettling. On the facing page is a poem called "Miracle," which describes emergency medical responders unburdening themselves of a heavy stretcher. In the poem before that, "Chanson d'Aventure," it's the narrator himself who is laid out on the stretcher.

An awareness of the "bright no-where" of death, as Heaney called it in an elegy to his mother, has been one of his subjects for more than 20 years, and with increasing frequency he has taken to dedicating his poems to those who have died. What sets Human Chain apart is Heaney's new orientation. It is Heaney's first book since he had a stroke, in 2006. This is poetry written from within that bright nowhere, as it were--death isn't only an inevitability on the horizon; it surrounds him. The line has been crossed; this is poetry from the other side. "I had my existence. I was there./Me in place and the place in me," Heaney writes in the strange and enchanting "A Herbal," a poem that begins by describing the plants that grow from graves. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Bright Nowhere
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.