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March 14, 2019


#Poetry Seamus Heaney

by NancyElin


Field Work (1979)

  1. Field Work is the fifth poetry collection
  2. It is a record of Heaney’s four years (1972-1976)
  3. living in rural County Wicklow, Ireland
  4. after leaving the violence in Northern Ireland.
  5. Heaney lived in  Belfast  and was a professor at Queen’s University.
  6. The years  in Ireland were years of retreat
  7. …a quiet time for thinking and renewal.
  1. Field Work is less political.
  2. 50% elegies…a choice to remain on the everyday level.
  3. 50% domestic life…love poems for his wife  and friends.
  4. Style: sketch the living before death and
  5. …do justice to the moment of extinction
  6. Heaney calls it the ‘music of what happens’.
  7. The title Field Work implies  his investigation
  8. …into a culture not one’s own in County Wicklow Ireland.


My Notes:

  1. Oysters: 
  2. starts with images of  shared eating and friendship to anger over being  the colonized (Romans). Strange…I really did not ‘get’ this poem.
  3. A Drink of Water:
  4. sonnet that describes an elderly women who used to collect water from the well each morning, but now she has passed away.
  5. The Strand at Lough Beg:
  6. for Colum McCarthy (cousin shot in a sectarian ambush)
  7. A Postcard from North Antrium:
  8. friend S. Armstrong shot by “a pointblank teatime bulllet”


  1. Casualty:
  2. for  L. O’ Neill  – friend, went out for his usual nightly
  3. drink in a pub  bar and was blown up by a bomb set by his own people.
  4. Note: in Casualtyrevenant meaning someone has come back from the dead to haunt them
  5. The Badgers:  badger is a Heaney animal alter-ego.
  6. The Singer’s House:
  7. is full of imagery…even if one does not know where Carrickfergus is. Heaney uses images to carry his poem to levels where straightforward propaganda could never reach. Much of what goes on in this poem can best be understood as a contrast between life in the North (industry, mining) and life in the South of Ireland,
  8. The Guttural Muse: refers to the noise of young people leaving a discotheque
  9. In Memoriam Sean O’ Riada: Irish composer traditional music
  10. Elegy:
  11. for Robert Lowell (poet) death-moment is represented by “…the wind off the Atlantic”.


  1. Glanmore Sonnets:
  2. Ten poems in the ‘marriage group’ .
  3. An Afterwards:
  4. the poet imagines himself in the ninth circle of hell,
  5. as his widow comes from the upper life to indict him and
  6. all poets saying…“I have closed my widowed ears…”
  7. High Summer: what an image! ….maggots in a paper bag as fish bait (jick)
  8. The Otter: image of his wife (otter) love poem…when they first met
  9. The Skunk: image of his wife (skunk ) love poem..describes married life
  10. The Harvest Bow: looks back to his father using a harvest bow
  11. In Memoriam Francis Ledwidge:
  12. Irish WW I poet/soldier; aka “poet of the blackbirds”
  13. Ugolino:
  14. version of the Ugolino episode in Cantos 32 and 33 of Dante’s “Inferno.”
Read more from Ireland, poetry

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