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In Gratitude for All the Gifts

In Gratitude for All the Gifts: Seamus Heaney and Eastern Europe

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    In Gratitude for All the Gifts
    Book Description:

    In Gratitude for All the Giftsthus allows us to see what happens when poetic forms, histories, and themes travel between countries and encourages us to understand cultural crossing not just thematically, but also in terms of form, voice, and aesthetic intent.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6212-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-17)

    Since the beginning of our new millennium, readers have been proffering summative assessments of Seamus Heaney’s work, perhaps because major calendrical changes reinvigorate our taste for deaths and entrances, and for critical revaluations; the beginning of a new century seems a good vantage point, and is readily seen as the beginning of a new era. During the previous fin de siècle, it made sense to think so. Today, we are still seeking to articulate the major changes occurring in the last two decades of the previous century, which proved revolutionary in the two Irelands and in Eastern Europe. A newly...

  5. 1 Looking Eastwards
    (pp. 18-56)

    The fact that Seamus Heaney has been influenced by Eastern European poetry is beyond the need of justification. The way in which he has been influenced, the why and the wherefore, not to mention the degree, remain curiously ill-defined. There is, however, a rich context to his interest, one that is not unfamiliar but that is rarely viewed from Heaney’s perspective, placing his work in the foreground, his voice as our guide. Heaney’s very insistence on the exemplary quality of Eastern European work provides us with the best way to begin such a definition, since he readily delineates the problematic...

  6. 2 Heroic Names
    (pp. 57-85)

    The fascination of a writer’s life cannot be underestimated, especially when the life in question is judged to be heroic. Heaney gives voice to his own fascination, again in the plural but with a great degree of personal emotion, which comes close to awe:

    How often, in epigraphs to essays and poems, or as the subject of essays and poems, ... do we not nowadays come upon the names of Tsvetaeva and Akhmatova and the Mandelstams and Pasternak? These, and many others – Gumilev, Esenin, Mayakovsky – have become heroic names ... Yet in the case of the heroes, it is not...

  7. 3 Zbigniew Herbert and the Moral Imperative
    (pp. 86-123)

    ‘Twenty years ago, Herbert’s writing was treated as a directive. His texts were deciphered in search of guidelines regarding key matters – who one is, what is reasonable, what is valuable, and what is worthwhile to do with one’s life,’ writes Piotr Śliwiński in 2007. Zbigniew Herbert, he believes, possessed an authority surpassing that of any other poet at the time, even Czesław Miłosz (Czapliński and Śliwiński 129, my translation). Śliwiński, in his end-of-the-century assessment of contemporary verse, assumes a Polish audience who may read such a statement polemically. The post-communist era is a great one for reassessments, and by means...

  8. 4 Approaching the Master
    (pp. 124-151)

    Although Herbert’s work took on life in English before that of Miłosz, the latter poet eventually became Heaney’s source of wisdom, heroic father figure, and perpetual touchstone. As with the work of Wordsworth and Dante, once encountered, it is never dismissed – we cannot say that their influence ever truly ceases. In the early 1970s, Heaney initiates a lifelong relationship with his Polish master, and his influence proves to be broader and deeper than that of any other Eastern European writer. He is sometimes bewildered by Miłosz, as in the ludicrously comical ‘Away from it All,’ but cannot escape the Polish...

  9. 5 Unfortunate Nobility
    (pp. 152-188)

    Station Islandmeditates on what poetry is called upon to do and what it should do, realizing that they are not the same thing.The Government of the Tonguelooks at other poets as examples of how to negotiate this difference.The Haw Lanternallegorizes the choice more abstractly than the extended metaphor of ‘Sweeney Redivivus’ had allowed, truly mastering new rungs of air by looking at the air itself rather than the ground beneath. This volume, called Heaney’s first book of the virtual by Helen Vendler (in a refreshingly untechnological use of the term), is the repository of Heaney’s...

  10. Conclusion: Considering the Gift
    (pp. 189-202)

    Seeing Thingsis universally acknowledged as Heaney’s book of the marvellous, yet it would not be possible either without the hard-edged explorations conducted under the tutelage of Zbigniew Herbert or the mastery of new rungs of air conducted under the gaze of Czesław Miłosz. It is tempting to take Heaney at his word when he writes that he had to wait until he was nearly fifty to credit marvels (‘Fosterling’), but poems do not always make reliable autobiographies. He has actually been attuned to the marvellous ever since his first poems; the degree to which he ‘credited’ it is up...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 203-218)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 219-232)
  13. Index
    (pp. 233-240)