978-0-374-52841-6 / 9780374528416

Electric Light: Poems


Publisher:Farrar, Straus and Giroux



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About the book:

Seamus Heaney's 11th collection of poems, Electric Light, continues his excavation of childhood, his vivifying love of nature, and his quest into the meaning of poetry itself in an utterly pleasurable and satisfying way. As the poet squares up to his own mortality, many of the poems are dedicated to the memory of lost friends and poets like Joseph Brodsky. Yet the urgency and optimism of new birth is a lively presence in the book too. "Bann Valley Eclogue," for example, prophesizes a time when "old markings / Will avail no more to keep east bank from west. / The valley will be washed like the new baby." And in "Out of the Bag," the child narrator believes that newborns emerge from the doctor's bag--or, in one hallucinatory moment, from the washbasin: "The baby bits all come together swimming / Into his soapy big hygienic hands."

Childhood is an unfading, unfailing element in Heaney's work, and is caught with a breathless vitality. "The Real Names" revisits the schoolboys who played Shakespeare: Owen Kelly as "Sperrins Caliban" with "turnip fists," and "Catatonic Bobby X" as Feste, "with his curled-in shoulders and cabbage-water eyes / speechlessly rocking." Here is the humor, exactness, scope, and tenderness of Heaney at his best. His language is as muscular and inventive as ever. Idiom meets innovation in compounds like rut-shuddery and flood-slubs--and waver is neatly subverted into a noun in "Perch." Throughout Electric Light, Heaney demonstrates exactly how poetry can capture the "flows and steady go of the world." --Cherry Smyth

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