Human Chain by Seamus Heaney

Human Chain

bySeamus Heaney

Kobo ebook | September 2, 2010

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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, as lifelines to the inherited past. There are newly minted versions of anonymous early Irish lyrics, poems which stand at the crossroads of oral and written, and other 'hermit songs' which weigh equally in their balance the craft of scribe and the poet's early calling as scholar. A remarkable sequence entitled 'Route 110' plots the descent into the underworld in the Aeneid against single moments in the arc of a life, from a 1950s adolescence to the birth of the poet's first grandchild. Other poems display a Virgilian pietas for the dead - friends, neighbours and family - which is yet wholly and movingly vernacular.

Human Chain also adapts a poetic 'herbal' by the Breton poet Guillevic - lyrics as delicate as ferns, which puzzle briefly over the world of things which excludes human speech, while affirming the interconnectedness of phenomena, as of a self-sufficiency in which we too are included.

Human Chain is Seamus Heaney's twelfth collection of poems.

Title:Human ChainFormat:Kobo ebookPublished:September 2, 2010Publisher:Faber & FaberLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:057126963X

ISBN - 13:9780571269631


Rated 5 out of 5 by from Possibly perfect....straightforward yet full of depth 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 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? Finally, the most poignant of all is "The Butts", where the narrator describes searching through a wardrobe of old suits. He describes how they "swung heavily like waterweed disturbed" as he checks the pockets and finds them full of old cigarette butts, "nothing but chaff cocoons, a paperiness not known again until the last days came". Colors, sounds, even odors are a part of the poem as he leaves you to wonder why he's looking through the clothing. Hinting, but never direct, one senses that Heaney is describing the search for a proper burial suit. For a father? Throughout the collection, varying dedications for the poems give the sense that Heaney wants to go on record with his past and make the connections that are implied with the title, Human Chain. When I first looked at the cover, I thought it was of trees branches, maybe birch, threading out to tiny tips. Then I was alerted to a possibly different meaning when I saw a microscopic picture of the human circulatory system-the blood channels that look so similar to branches. In either case, Heaney has shown, again, an amazing grasp of the connections and complexity of the human condition.
Date published: 2010-12-22