At Seamus Heaney’s death in 2013, the canon of his published poems closed.
In this seminar, we’ll survey lyrics from Heaney’s first seven volumes (1966-96) preceding the 1995 Nobel Prize. We’ll follow his successive topics: childhood, youth, the sufferings of women, nationalism, the Northern Irish “troubles,” the move to pastoral Wicklow, marriage, and, increasingly, elegy. We’ll be led through the poems by the changes in Heaney’s style—from Keatsian richness to archaic terseness, from the phenomenal to the invisible, from gravity to “walking on air.”
A future seminar will take up Heaney’s last three books—Electric Light, District and Circle, and Human Chain—and will consider his life-long investigation of the possibilities of the long sequence.
Helen Vendler is the A. Kingsley Porter University Professor at Harvard. Her most recent books are Dickinson: Selected Poems and Commentaries and Last Looks, Last Books: Stevens, Plath, Lowell, Bishop, Merrill. She is a frequent reviewer of poetry in such journals as The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review and The New Republic.
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