Monday, 6 September 2010

Human Chain - an anthology of poetry by Seamus Heaney

This wonderful collection of poetry from Seamus Heaney is one of retrospection and near death, portraying bygones in his human chain. It feels like he's going back over his life as he reflects in 'Route 110' his younger days working in a bookshop. The collection jumps around in the map of his life, ' Chanson d'Adventure' describing an ambulance ride after he had a stroke;

Everything and nothing spoken,
Our eyebeams threaded laser-fast, no transport
Ever like it until then, in the sunlit cold.

This is followed by 'Miracle' which can only be his recovery and the people in the Human Chain that helped him at the time;

Until he's strapped on tight, made tiltable
And raised to the tiled roof, then lowered for healing.
Be mindful of them as they stand and wait

Heaney always portrays his life in words of beautiful simplicity which makes his poetry come alive, my favourite at the moment is ' A Herbal' an adaptation of the Breton poet Guillevic, describing the mystery and other worldliness of graveyard plants and grass;

Not that grass itself
Ever rests in peace.

It too takes issue,
Now sets its face

To the wind,
Now turns its back.

Memoirs of his parents are in 'Uncoupled', his mother carrying a tray of ashes and his father in an ordinary yet dignified role. He captures the ghosts of three painters, Nancy Wynn- Jones, Derek Hill and Colin Middleton perfectly. This is a poet in the latter part of his life writing words about the end of life and the pictures that flash through the mind, chronicling his memories and thoughts before they are lost in his own mortality. His poems carry the stamp of autobiographical detail, taking you through his phases in life with such undressed intensity, it is hoped these are not his last.

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