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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Seamus Heaney is one of our foremost poets of place; though he knows art's power to liberate and unbind, his verse always roots itself in a concrete realm of the senses. Heaney's latest collection, Electric Light, moves between two homelands -- the Arcadian landscape of classical antiquity, from which so many poets draw sustenance, and the fields, bogs, and rivers of Ireland. One dimension slides into the other; poetry tracks a "Single line to sing along the lifeline," creating and sustaining an account of the life-journey through the physical world.
Several of the poems are eclogues, a classical form derived from Virgil that mourns an expulsion from one's land. Others speak of aging, another sort of exile, but one that supplies the poet with a rich hoard of memories to be spun into song. So many of these involve fellow travelers, and Electric Light includes touching odes to departed friends like Joseph Brodsky and Ted Hughes. But it is also a book of beginnings, looking ahead to "the child that's due. Maybe, heavens, sing/Better times for her and her generation."
As events from rural childhood and heady schooldays juxtapose with imaginary flashes of the future, origins and destinations blur. "Since when," the poet asks, "Are the first line and last line of any poem/Where the poem begins and ends?" On the page, as well as in the world, time's progress is dynamic, multidimensional. Beginning "Where the flat water/Came pouring over the weir out of Lough Neagh," Heaney's collection ranges far and near, but comes back to rest, fittingly, on "ground": the final word in Electric Light. (Jonathan Cook)