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Finders Keepers: Selected Prose, 1971-2001

Finders Keepers: Selected Prose, 1971-2001

by Seamus Heaney

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Finders Keepers is a literary landmark, an indispensable companion to Seamus Heaney's poetry for any reader: the most complete one-volume edition of his prose to date. Whether autobiographical, topical or specifically literary, these writings circle the central preoccupying questions of Heaney's career: 'How should a poet properly live and write? What is his


Finders Keepers is a literary landmark, an indispensable companion to Seamus Heaney's poetry for any reader: the most complete one-volume edition of his prose to date. Whether autobiographical, topical or specifically literary, these writings circle the central preoccupying questions of Heaney's career: 'How should a poet properly live and write? What is his relationship to be to his own voice, his own place, his literary heritage and the contemporary world?' Along with selections from the poet's three prose collections (Preoccupations, The Government of the Tongue and The Redress of Poetry), the present volume includes a rich variety of pieces not previously collected in books, ranging from formal lectures to radio commentaries about the rural Ireland of Heaney's childhood to illuminating reviews of his contemporaries. In its soundings of a wide range of poets -- Irish and British, American and Eastern European; his predecessors, fellows and successors -- Finders Keepers becomes, as its title heralds, an announcement of both excitement and possession.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Ireland's most recent Nobel laureate offers up many old, and some new, critical and autobiographical essays in this invitingly capacious volume, which reprints most of his previous books of prose, from Preoccupations (1980) to the Oxford lectures in The Redress of Poetry (1995). The book, like its title, both "expresses glee and stakes a claim," as Heaney remarks. Subjects of glee (or appreciation, anyway) include several major (and some minor) poets, among them Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, John Clare, W.H. Auden, W.B. Yeats and Patrick Kavanagh, all examined in the literary criticism that makes up the second and longest of the book's three parts. Heaney as critic both offers insight into the makings of others' verse and shows how his readings of others' poetry (such as Clare's and Kavanagh's) have informed the making of his own. More general pieces examine, for example, "The Irish Poet in Britain" and the place of poets in the classroom. Part three collects recent book reviews and short magazine pieces, among them Heaney's memorial to Joseph Brodsky and his famous division of Paul Muldoon's oeuvre into "muldoodles" and "mulboons." Of equal or broader interest are the personal reflections in the volume's first section, which moves from the "secret nests" of Heaney's childhood to Belfast in the 1960s and the Irish peace process of the 1990s. Evocative, bedazzling and fruitful in its implications, Heaney's prose has become a necessary complement to his poetry. (May) Forecast: Shelved side-by-side with his Collected Poems, Heaney's tomes should sell well for years to come, with this book coming strongly off the blocks. Buyers should be aware that this volume does not include Heaney's Nobel lecture ("Crediting Poetry"), presumably because it's in print at the back of the Collected. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In his prose work, Heaney's critical method is to borrow and spin: he'll take an idea from another writer and put it to new use as he bores into the subject at hand. Describing the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop, for example, Heaney quotes from fellow poet Charles Simic's essay on Joseph Cornell to describe what we do when we read Bishop: we look at the image we see and the one we imagine at the same time. Another characteristic of Heaney's approach is that he never presents a static picture but always describes the artist or artwork in motion. It is not for nothing that Heaney likens his pen to a spade, for again and again the Nobel prize-winning poet puts his earthy Irish practicality to the service of criticism as he delves into the life and work of the major Anglophone poets, himself included. Here his prose is divided into three sections: autobiographical or topical essays; studies of Yeats, Dylan Thomas, and other individual authors; and then "a kind of kite-tail, a stringing out of miscellaneous pieces that for all their brevity retain, I hope, a certain interest." They do: Heaney may borrow his tools, but he always uses them to unearth new literary treasure. Recommended for all academic and large public libraries. David Kirby, Florida State Univ., Tallahassee Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A wonderful collection of the great Irish poet and critic's learned yet down-to-earth prose. Here, Nobel laureate Heaney (Electric Light, 2001, etc.) takes us on a tour of his intellectual concerns over the course of three decades. Culled from three past collections, including The Redress of Poetry (1995), as well as journals, newspapers, and lectures, the pieces tend to fall into three categories: autobiography, poetry, and politics. No matter the topic, however, Heaney retains the style, focus, and metaphors that make his verse so popular. His writing is always rooted in the everyday, as when he compares memory to village wells and bogs of Ireland, which preserve the sacrificial bodies of men dumped in them. At times these passages may give pause to the reader lacking an English degree. He comments of T.S. Eliot's images, for example, "They are not what I at first mistakenly thought them: constituent parts of some erudite code available to initiates." More complicated passages like these, which may beg re-reading, still make their mark because Heaney makes readers feel they are being included in such a welcoming and warm lesson. Some will grow tired of his conservative close readings, no doubt. Whether analyzing Sylvia Plath or Robert Burns, he takes an exacting, line-for-line approach that isn't as flashy as more recent critical schools. But Heaney is a poet first, and his critical technique reflects his interests as a writer. He is less daunting when discussing the situation in his native Northern Ireland. There he describes the conflict between Catholics and Protestants from the perspective of the victimized citizenry, never as an aloof academic. A must for poets and students ofpoetry and a good start for initiates seeking to understand the constituent parts of its erudite codes.
From the Publisher

“[Heaney's] approach to poetry--sensitive but tolerant, and attentive to beauty above all--suffuses Finders Keepers. It will delight those who have come to love Heaney's own rich and humane verse.” —Adam Kirsch, The Boston Globe

“A collection of Heaney's biographical reminiscences and frequently rhapsodic but meticulous critical essays. Heaney's is a lifelong romance with words.” —Christina Cho, The New York Times Book Review

“[Heaney's] critical prose can be as impassioned and as musical as the verse he's explicating...Heaney takes us to those places where we can find the genuine consolation that literature can provide.” —Charles Matthews, The Seattle Times

Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
6.14(w) x 9.60(h) x 1.41(d)

Meet the Author

Seamus Heaney (1939-2013) received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995. His poems, plays, translations, and essays include Opened Ground, Electric Light, Beowulf, The Spirit Level, District and Circle, and Finders Keepers. Robert Lowell praised Heaney as the "most important Irish poet since Yeats."

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