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The Spirit Level: Poems [NOOK Book]


In The Spirit Level, as ever with Seamus Heaney, personal memory and humble domestic objects -- a whitewash brush, a sofa, a swing -- are endowed with talismanic significance, and throughout the collection he addresses his growing concerns, which inevitably include the political situation in his native Northern Ireland, in a poetry that never ceases to be fluid, alert, and completely truthful.


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The Spirit Level: Poems

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In The Spirit Level, as ever with Seamus Heaney, personal memory and humble domestic objects -- a whitewash brush, a sofa, a swing -- are endowed with talismanic significance, and throughout the collection he addresses his growing concerns, which inevitably include the political situation in his native Northern Ireland, in a poetry that never ceases to be fluid, alert, and completely truthful.

In this collection of new poems, Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heany discovers and celebrates the moments when the challenges of "keeping going" are transformed into the possibilities of a "new beginning." What is at stake in poem after poem is the renewal of buoyancy and balance--physical, spiritual, and political. In a poetry that never ceases to be fluid, alert, and completely truthful, Heany addresses his growing concerns, including the situation in his native Northern Ireland.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As the title suggests, this new collection from the 1995 winner of the Nobel Prize is a study in balance. Heaney reveals how simple things, such as a thimble or a swing, can hold the weight of history-and how history can alter the emotional weight of an object. "Two Lorries" takes the romantic innocence of a coalman's truck, circa 1940, with its driver who stops to flirt with the poet's mother, and measures it against a present-day "heavier, deadlier one, set to explode." Meanwhile, the poems revel in wordplay. A favorite tactic is the repetition of words within a lines or stanzas, which can yield such simplicity as in "Bisected sunlight in the sunlit yard," or be as savvy as a politico's speech: "Like the disregarded ones we turned against/ Because we'd failed them by our disregard." Heaney, at the peak of his career, is the fulcrum of two Irelands: one that is lyrical and lush with tradition and love; another that is ticking and could "catch the heart off guard and blow it open." June
Library Journal
In his 1995 Nobel lecture, Heaney speaks earnestly about the role of poetry in everyday lifeit must be "not only a surprising variation played upon the world, but a retuning of the world itself"an instrument of shock by which the perception of reality is set right, or at least set anew. Certainly Heaney's own poetry aspires to this goal, assisted by the cobblestone physicality of Irish speech "And the train tore past with the stoker yelling/ Like a balked king from his iron chariot" and the tragic, almost surreal political climate of Northern Ireland. His latest collection draws on the past-personal, historical, mythicto articulate an innocence recollected in bitter knowledge, prefigurings of a present discerned only in hindsight. Vivid sounds and smells of childhood compete with acrid reminders of yesterday's truck bombing "Two Lorries" or drive-by assassination "Keeping Going". Nothingnot even memoryHeaney implies, is truly safe, and there is "No such thing/ as innocent/ bystanding"; nevertheless, he strives to create the balance that poetry makes possible, defined in his Nobel lecture as touching "the base of our sympathetic nature while taking in at the same time the unsympathetic reality of the world to which that nature is constantly exposed." The reader's challenge is not to be carried helplessly forward by random events but to take sides, to risk the exposureof conscience, of valuesthat Heaney risks as poet and to bear the best of what's discovered there into a refigured world. Both books are recommended for most poetry collections.Fred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, N.Y.
School Library Journal
YA-This collection by the 1995 Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet concerns itself with balance. "Weighing In" expresses this principle through the concrete image of a 56-pound weight, in the abstract "principle of bearing, bearing up and bearing out, just having to balance the intolerable in others against our own," and many of the poems continue to explore this theme. Nothing is totally one thing or another but a balance, a middle ground. The poems may seem simple at first, but as readers peel away the surface meaning they'll find layers of deep and penetrating insights into everyday life. Irish references and idiom abound but should not deter YAs from grasping a wider meaning from each of the 35 poems with each successive reading. Several of the selections reflect the tension in Northern Ireland as in "Two Lorries" or patriotism as in "An Invocation." This volume is a must for any high school library that strives to be comprehensive and of top quality.-Dottie Kraft, formerly at Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
Donna Seaman
In his first book of poems since being awarded the 1995 Nobel Prize in literature, Heaney evinces the sort of wisdom one would hope for in a man devoted to keen observation and lyrical interpretation, that is, a feeling of peace. In many of these magnificently orotund intonations, he expresses his intimacy with the specifics of earth and its forces, its mysteries and sensual textures. Life is "omnipresent, imperturbable," and we should learn to distill simple pleasures from its complexity. But such calm and wonder cannot always be maintained, the bubble in the spirit level will not always hover at the desired center. No, there are darker forms of knowing, and while Heaney writes of sunlight and mint, of happy boyhood moments, he also sees a world splashed with blood and gritted with windblown ash. Heaney navigates skillfully from the personal to the universal, from life to death, seeking that precious equilibrium that only poetry can possess.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781466855748
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 1/13/2014
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 81
  • Sales rank: 1,294,185
  • 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."

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Table of Contents

The Rain Stick 3
To a Dutch Potter in Ireland 4
A Brigid's Girdle 8
Mint 9
A Sofa in the Forties 10
Keeping Going 13
Two Lorries 17
Damson 19
Weighing In 21
St Kevin and the Blackbird 24
The Flight Path 26
An Invocation 32
Mycenae Lookout 34
1. The Watchman's War 34
2. Cassandra 36
3. His Dawn vision 40
4. The Nights 42
5. His Reverie of Water 45
The First Words 47
The Gravel Walks 48
Whitby-sur-Moyola 50
The Thimble 51
The Butter-Print 53
Remembered Columns 54
'Poet's Chair' 55
The Swing 58
The Poplar 61
Two Stick Drawings 62
A Call 64
The Errand 65
A Dog Was Crying Tonight in Wicklow Also 66
M. 68
An Architect 69
The Sharping Stone 70
The Strand 73
The Walk 74
At the Wellhead 76
At Banagher 78
Tollund 80
Postscript 82
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