Human Chain: Poems [NOOK Book]

Overview

A Boston Globe Best Poetry Book of 2011
Winner of the 2011 Griffin Poetry Prize
Winner of the 2011 Poetry Now Award

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 ...

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Human Chain: Poems

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Overview

A Boston Globe Best Poetry Book of 2011
Winner of the 2011 Griffin Poetry Prize
Winner of the 2011 Poetry Now Award

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, of lifelines to the inherited past. There are newly minted versions of anonymous early Irish lyrics, poems that stand at the crossroads of oral and written, and other "hermit songs" that weigh equally in their balance the craft of scribe and the poet's early calling as scholar. A remarkable sequence entitled "Route 101" 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 a first grandchild. Other poems display a Virgilian pietas for the dead--friends, neighbors, family--that is yet wholly and movingly vernacular.

Human Chain also includes a poetic "herbal" adapted from the Breton poet Guillevic--lyrics as delicate as ferns, which puzzle briefly over the world of things and landscapes that exclude human speech, while affirming the interconnectedness of phenomena, as of a self-sufficiency in which we too are included.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Nostalgia and memory, numinous visions and the earthy music of compound adjectives together control the short poems and sequences of the Irish Nobel laureate’s 14th collection of verse, a work of familiar strengths and unparalleled charm. Old teachers, schoolmates, farmhands, and even the employees of an “Eelworks” arrive transfigured through Heaney’s command of sound: a schoolmate whose family worked in the eel trade “would ease his lapped wrist// From the flap-mouthed cuff/ Of a jerkin rank with eel oil,// The abounding reek of it/ Among our summer desks.” The title poem applies Heaney’s gift for physical mimesis to an image from the day’s news: “bags of meal passed hand to hand... by the aid workers” remind the poet of the grain-sacks he swung and dragged in his own youth. Other pages remember, and praise, libraries and classrooms--from grade school, from Harvard, and from medieval Irish monasteries, with their “riddle-solving anchorites.” For all the variety of Heaney’s framed glimpses, though, the standout poems grow from occasions neither trivial nor topical: Heaney in 2006 had a minor stroke, and the discreet analogies and glimpsed moments in poems such as “Chanson d’Aventure” (about a ride in an ambulance) and “In the Attic” (“As I age and blank on names”) bring his characteristic warmth and subtlety to mortality, rehabilitation, recent trauma, and old age. (Sept.)
Library Journal
While retaining the linguistic brawn and bristle one expects of Nobelist Heaney, his latest collection (after 2006's District and Circle) strikes a deeply elegiac note, commemorating both the personal and the historical past with urgent poignancy. From the vantage point of 70 years, the poet is all too aware of how easily "the memorable bottoms out/ Into the irretrievable," and so images preserved from youth—of eels, gooseberries, coal fires, Irish militiamen guarding a rural road—achieve three-dimensional, iconic status, still lives affirming the fact of lived experience, whether joyous or tragic ("I had my existence. I was there./ Me in place and the place in me"). As always, he thrives on robust descriptions of physical labor. In the title poem, relief workers pass bags of grain, "ready for the heave—/ The eye-to-eye, one-two one-two upswing/ On to the trailer, then the stoop and drag and drain/ Of the next lift." VERDICT Reading Heaney's poems, like viewing Breughel's and Courbet's depictions of worldly life, can leave readers feeling palm-roughened and muscle-sore, but as contemporary poetry grows ever more conceptual and theory-based, Heaney continues to remind us of William Carlos Williams's famous line, "No ideas but in things." Recommended.—Fred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, NY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781466855670
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 1/13/2014
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 96
  • File size: 2 MB

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."


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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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 22, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    As close to perfect as you can get....poetry for anyone

    I'm not even going to think about calling this a review of Seamus Heaney's latest collection of poems, Human Chain.. It would be incredibly presumptuous on my part to even suggest that I'm going to "evaluate" his work (of course, normally I'm always presumptuous in terms of reviewing!). Instead, I'm going to just relay a few points that I love about this amazing poet, and why you should read him if you haven't already.




    For one thing, his writing style is so straightforward and concise. It's not fluffy or ostentatious or full of bizarre allusions that make you feel ignorant for not understanding. Instead, he writes like a reader, with spare words that draw crisp pictures. Yet his poetry does have layers...you can find multiple meanings if you ponder what he says, so they still have depth and are certainly not simplistic at all. In fact, in many ways his simplicity is deceiving.




    For example, I recently re-read "Digging", a poem he wrote in 1968 about a man admiring his father's and grandfather's strength as they turned over turf and worked the land in Ireland. He concludes the poem with something along the lines (I'm paraphrasing) that 'I'll have to do the work with my pen'. What initially is a pleasant enough little story (hard work, family, nature) suddenly had a deeper meaning and then, "digging" into it, one could see he was commenting on the struggles of Northern Ireland and showing the violence that was sometimes used to create change in the Republic. He never got pushy or overtly political but you could clearly see that he was sending another message.




    So, in reading Human Chain, I was again dazzled by his subtlety. In one poem, "Miracle", he leads the reader into another direction of thought as he reconsiders the Biblical event of Christ healing a lame man:




    Not the one who takes up his bed and walks

    But the ones who have known him all along

    And carry him in-

    Their shoulders numb, the ache and stoop deeplocked

    In their backs, the stretcher handles

    Slippery with sweat. And no let-up

    Until he's strapped on tight, made tiltable

    And raised to the tiled roof, then lowered for healing.

    Be mindful of them as they stand and wait

    For the burn of the paid-out ropes to cool,

    Their slight lightheadedness and incredulity

    To pass, those ones who had known him all along.




    Here, he's stepped back from a significant event to expand on its effects to those out of the spotlight, observers on the periphery who are also altered, although less obviously. In "Slack", he writes about the repetitive and mundane nature of storing coal for the fire, and shows what the symbolic heat means for the home:




    A sullen pile

    But soft to the shovel, accommodating

    As the clattering coal was not.

    In days when life prepared for rainy days

    It lay there, slumped and waiting,

    To dampen down and lengthen out...




    And those words-

    "Bank the fire"-

    Every bit as solid as

    The cindery skull

    Formed when its tarry

    Coral cooled.




    Here he illustrates the fragile balance of life and death as dependent on the existence of the humble coal; and foreshadows what happens when the coal runs out. In that case, the cold shells of the fire appear as "skulls". So is he talking about just a home fire or the flame of one's heart?

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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