"Beautifully written, full of insights, and well argued."—Jay Parini, author of The Last Station: A Novel of Tolstoy’s Last Year
"The most challenging of recent studies, Hart’s rich exploration of Heaney’s poetry and prose from the 1960s through The Haw Lantern aims to reveal the seamlessness of Heaney’s achievement by seeking in the poems those elements and traits that Heaney allusively indicates in his prose."—Choice
"In their lifetimes few poets inspire the kind of meticulous, full-scale study that henry hart has produced . . . Individual poems are enriched and illuminated. . . . Offers many valuable perspectives on its subject."—Harvard Review
Seamus Heaney, widely considered the most gifted living poet in Ireland and Britain, is the first Irish poet since Yeats to gain an international reputation. In this remarkable study, henry Hart discusses Heaney’s poems, his creative and personal situations, and his assimilation of contemporary literary theory. From Heaney’s Ulster background to poetic influences as diverse as Dante and Wordsworth, Yeats and Bly, Hart offers sophisticated, lucid insights.
Hart argues that the best way into Heaney’s poetic world is in seeking to understand him—as with Blake and Yeats—in terms of oppositions and conflicts, progressions and syntheses. At the root of all his work is a multifaceted argument with himself, with others, with sectarian Northern Ireland, with his Anglo-Irish heritage, with his Roman Catholicism, and with his Nationalist upbringing on a farm in County Derry.
For each volume of poems, from Door into the Dark to The Haw Lantern, Hart identifies and works with a specific problem in the text, while developing its intellectual and creative implications. He covers aspects as diverse as Heaney’s incorporation of antipastoral attitudes in his poems, his fascination with how etymology recapitulates ancient and modern history, and apocalypticism in North. Placing his trust in art’s ability to confront conflicts between freedom and responsibility, between private craft and public involvement, Heaney is shown nonetheless to chastise himself for failing to have a greater impact on the situation he left behind in Northern Ireland.
In pursuing the literary, religious, and political themes in his books of poetry, Hart shows that Heaney is no provincial bard, as some critics have suggested, but is as intellectually informed and astute as any postmodernist writer. Any reader of Seamus Heaney’s poetry, and any poet, poetry scholar, critic of contemporary poetry, or student of Irish literature will gain much from reading this book.
Henry Hart is assistant professor of English at the College of William and Mary. He is the author of The Poetry of Geoffrey Hill, and The Ghost Ship, a collection of poems, and has published numerous articles. In 1987, he was co-winner of the Twentieth-Century Literature's annual competition for the best article in literary criticism.
Series: Irish Studies
6 x 9, 0 pages