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Human Chain by Seamus Heaney
  

Human Chain

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Shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry 2010.

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Human Chain is at once a gathering and a departure. What is being grasped – about connection, about separation – can be neither softened nor solved, a realization as passive and abrupt as “the timed collapse / Of a sawn down tree.” As in earlier work, Heaney uses the fixity of the photograph and the mechanism of film to emphasise the way in which we are the object rather than the subject of certain aspects of our lives. We are always catching ourselves up or out, which is not such a bleak prospect when it brings us moments of intense appreciation: “It was evening before I came to / To what I was hearing /And missing: summer’s richest hours...” (‘The Baler’).

While Human Chain might be seen as a loosening of the hold on the self, Heaney’s engagement with poetry, with life, is more fierce than ever: this book is as much about consolidation as it is about letting go.

Synopsis

Human Chain by Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney's new collection elicits continuities and solidarities, between husband and wife, child and parent, then and now, inside an intently remembered present - the stepping stones of the day, the weight and heft of what is passed from hand to hand, lifted and lowered. Human Chain also broaches larger questions of transmission, as lifelines to the inherited past. There are newly minted versions of anonymous early Irish lyric, poems which stand at the crossroads of oral and written, and other 'hermits songs' which weigh equally in their balance the craft of scribe and the poet's early calling as scholar. A remarkable sequence entitled Route 110 plots the descent into the underworld in the Aeneid against single moments in the arc of a life, from a 1950s childhood to the birth of the poet's first grandchild. Other poems display a Virgilian pietas for the dead - friends, neighbours, family - which is yet wholly and movingly vernacular. Human Chain also adapts a poetic 'herbal' by the Breton poet Guillevic - lyrics as delicate as ferns, which puzzle briefly over the world of things which excludes human speech, while affirming the interconnectedness of phenomena, as of a self-sufficiency in which we too are included. Human Chain is Seamus Heaney's twelfth collection of poems.

About the Author

Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney was born in 1939 in County Derry in Northern Ireland. He grew up in the country, on a farm, in touch with a traditional rural way of life, which he wrote about in his first book Death of a Naturalist (1966).

Seamus Heaney began to write in 1962, publishing first in Irish magazines. During the early and mid-sixties, he was connected with a group of writers in Belfast that included Derek Mahon, Michael Longley and James Simmons. Philip Hobsbaum ran a poetry group during these years and the poets met regularly at his house until he moved to Glasgow in 1966. After this, the meetings continued under Heaney's chairmanship until 1970, and in this later period were attended by younger poets such as Paul Muldoon, Frank Ormsby and Michael Foley.

Seamus Heaney has won numerous awards, including the Somerset Maugham Award (1968), the Denis Devlin Award (1973), the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize (1975), the American Irish Foundation Literary Award (1973) and the WHSmith Annual Award (1976). In 1987 he was awarded the Whitbread Poetry Award for The Haw Lantern.

In 1965 he married Marie Devlin and they have three children. He is currently the Ralph Waldo Emerson Poet-in-Residence at Harvard University where he goes to teach for 6 weeks every two years. From 1989 to 1994 Seamus Heaney was Professor of Poetry at Oxford University.

In October 1995, Seamus Heaney was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He died in August 2013.

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Book Info

Publication date

2nd September 2010

Author

Seamus Heaney

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Publisher

Faber and Faber

Format

Hardback

Categories

Poetry
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ISBN

9780571269228

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