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Seamus Heaney’s “Big Words”

October 13, 2010

I’m not a huge poetry guy. But I do have a handful of poets I really like–Mary Oliver is one, of course. But then there is also Seamus Heaney. He’s got a new book of poetry out, called Human Chain, and it’s getting loads of positive reviews. Here’s The Economist:

A decade and a half ago Mr Heaney [said] that once the evil banalities of sectarianism seemed to be receding, his verse was able to admit the “big words” with which poetry had once abounded: soul and spirit, for example. In this collection both are present, at some level. The words describing a simple act—the passing of meal in sacks by aid workers onto a trailer—in the title poem, “Human Chain”, transform this 12-line poem into a kind of parable. There is the collective, shared human burden of the act itself—the “stoop and drag and drain” of the heavy lifting—and then there is the wonderful letting go: “Nothing surpassed/That quick unburdening.” Is the poet talking about the toil of life, and the aftermath of that toil?

I couldn’t find the complete poem anywhere on-line. Guess I’ll have to go get the book.

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