Seamus Heaney – Selectd Poems and Bibliography

Seamus Heaney (1939)

Selected Poems and Bibliography

Seamus Heaney (1939) is an Irish poet, writer and lecturer. He lives in Dublin.  Regarded as an elder statesman of poetry, Heaney has received the T. S. Eliot Prize (2006) and the Nobel Prize in Literature (1995) and two Whitbread prizes (1996 and 1999). He was both the Harvard and the Oxford Professor of Poetry and was made a Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres in 1996.

Selected Poems

The Rain Stick

Upend the rain stick and what happens next
Is a music that you never would have known
To listen for. In a cactus stalk

Downpour, sluice-rush, spillage and backwash
Come flowing through. You stand there like a pipe
Being played by water, you shake it again lightly

And diminuendo runs through all its scales
Like a gutter stopping trickling. And now here comes
A sprinkle of drops out of the freshened leaves,

Then subtle little wets off grass and daisies;
Then glitter-drizzle, almost-breaths of air.
Upend the stick again. What happens next

Is undiminished for having happened once,
Twice, ten, a thousand times before.
Who cares if all the music that transpires

Is the fall of grit or dry seeds through a cactus?
You are like a rich man entering heaven
Through the ear of a raindrop. Listen now again.

Weighing In

The 56 lb. weight. A solid iron
Unit of negation. Stamped and cast
With an inset, rung-thick, molded, short crossbar

For a handle. Squared-off and harmless-looking
Until you tried to lift it, then a socket-ripping,
Life-belittling force –

Gravity’s black box, the immovable
Stamp and squat and square-root of dead weight.
Yet balance it

Against another one placed on a weighbridge –
On a well-adjusted, freshly greased weighbridge –
And everything trembled, flowed with ‘give and take.

And this is all the good tidings amount to:
This principle of bearing, bearing up
And bearing out, just having to

Balance the intolerable in others
Against our own, having to abide
Whatever we settled for and settled into

Against our better judgment. Passive
Suffering makes the world go round.
Peace on earth, men of good will, all that

Holds good only as long as the balance holds,
The scales ride steady and the angels’ strain
Prolongs itself at an unearthly pitch.

To refuse the other cheek. To cast the stone.
Not to do so some time, not to break with
The obedient one you hurt yourself into

Is to fall the hurt, the self, the ingrown rule.
Prophesy who struck thee! When soldiers mocked
Blindfolded Jesus and he didn’t strike back

They were neither shamed nor edified, although
Something was made manifest – the power
Of power not exercised, of hope inferred

By the powerless forever. Still, for Jesus’ sake,
Do me a favour, would you, just this once?
Prophesy, give scandal, cast the stone.

Two sides to every question, yes, yes, yes…
But every now and then, just weighing in
Is what it must come down to, and without

Any self-exculpation or self-pity.
Alas, one night when follow-through was called for
And a quick hit would have fairly rankled,

You countered that it was my narrowness
That kept me keen, so got a first submission.
I held back when I should have drawn blood

And that way (mea culpa) lost an edge.
A deep mistaken chivalry, old friend.
At this stage only foul play cleans the slate.

The Flight Path

The first fold first, then more foldovers drawn
Tighter and neater every time until
The whole of the paper got itself reduced
To a pleated square he’d take up by two corners,
Then hold like a promise he had the power to break
But never did.
A dove rose in my breast
Every time my father’s bands came clean
With a paper boat between them, ark in air,
The lines of it as taut as a pegged tent:
High-sterned, splay-bottomed, the little pyramid
At the center every bit as hollow
As a part of me that sank because it knew
The whole thing would go soggy once you launched it.

Equal and opposite, the part that lifts
Into those full-starred heavens that winter sees
When I stand in Wicklow under the flight path
Of a late jet out of Dublin, its risen light
Winking ahead of what it hauls away:
Heavy engine noise and its abatement
Widening far back down, a wake through starlight.

The sycamore speaks in sycamore from darkness,
The light behind my shoulder’s cottage lamplight.

I’m in the doorway early in the night,
Standing-in myself for all of those
The stance perpetuates: the stay-at-homes
Who leant against the jamb and watched and waited,
The ones we learned to love by waving back at
Or coming towards again in different clothes
They were slightly shy of.
Who never once forgot
A name or a face, nor looked down suddenly
As the plane was reaching cruising altitude
To realize that the house they’d just passed over
Too far back now to see – was the same house
They’d left an hour before, still kissing, kissing,
As the taxi driver loaded up the cases.

Up and away. The buzz from duty free.
Black velvet. Bourbon. Love letters on high.
The spacewalk of Manhattan. The re-entry.

Then California. Laid-back Tiburon.
Burgers at Sam’s, deck-tables and champagne,
Plus a wall-eyed, hard-baked seagull looking on.

Again re-entry. Vows revowed. And off –
Reculer pour sauter, within one year of
Coming back, less long goodbye than stand-off.

So to Glanmore. Glanmore. Glanmore. Glanmore.
At bay, at one, at work, at risk and sure.
Covert and pad. Oak, bay and sycamore.

Jet-sitting next. Across and “cross and across.
Westering, eastering, the jumbo a school bus,
The Yard’ a cross between the farm and campus,

A holding pattern and a tautening purchase –
Sweeney astray in home truths out of Horace:
Skies change, not cares, for those who cross the seas.

The following for the record, in the light
Of everything before and since:
One bright May morning, nineteen-seventy-nine,
Just off the red-eye special from New York,
I’m on the train for Belfast. Plain, simple
Exhilaration at being back: the sea
At Skerries, the nuptial hawthorn bloom,
The trip north taking sweet hold like a chain
On every bodily sprocket.
Enter then –
As if he were some film noir border guard
Enter this one I’d last met in a dream,
More grimfaced now than in the dream itself
When he’d flagged me down at the side of a mountain road,
Come up and leant his elbow on the roof
And explained through the open window of the car
That all I’d have to do was drive a van
Carefully in to the next customs post
At Pettigo, switch off, get out as if
I were on my way with dockets to the office –
But then instead I’d walk ten yards more down
Towards the main street and get in with – here
Another school friend’s name, a wink and smile,
I’d know him all right, he’d be in a Ford
And I’d be home in three hours’ time, as safe
As houses …
So he enters and sits down
Opposite and goes for me head on.
‘When, for fuck’s sake, are you going to write
Something for us?’ ‘If I do write something,
Whatever it is, I’ll be writing for myself.’
And that was that. Or words to that effect.

The jail’s walls all those months were smeared with shite.
Out of Long Kesh after his dirty protest
The red eyes were the eyes of Ciaran Nugent
Like something out of Dante’s scurfy hell,
Drilling their way through the rhymes and images
Where I too walked behind the righteous Virgil,
As safe as houses and translating freely:
When he had said all this, his eyes rolled
And his teeth, like a dog’s teeth clamping round a bone,
Bit into the skull and again took hold.

When I answered that I came from ‘far away’,
The policeman at the roadblock snapped,’Where’s that?’
He’d only half heard what I said and thought
It was the name of some place up the country.

And now it is – both where I have been living
And where I left – a distance still to go
Like starlight that is light years on the go
From far away and takes light years arriving.

Out of the blue then, the sheer exaltation
Of remembering climbing zig-zag up warm steps
To the hermit’s eyrie above Rocamadour.
Crows sailing high and close, a lizard pulsing
On gravel at my feet, its front legs set
Like the jointed front struts of a moon vehicle.
And bigly, softly as the breath of life
In a breath of air, a lime-green butterfly
Crossing the pilgrims’ sunstruck via crucis.

Eleven in the morning. I made a note.
‘Rock-lover, loner, sky-sentry, all hall!’
And somewhere the dove rose. And kept on rising.

St Kevin and the Blackbird

And then there was St Kevin and the blackbird.
The saint is kneeling, arms stretched out, inside
His cell, but the cell is narrow, so

one turned-up palm is out the window, stiff
As a crossbeam, when a blackbird lands
And lays in it and settles down to nest.

Kevin feels the warm eggs, the small breast, the tucked
Neat head and claws and, finding himself linked
Into the network of eternal life,

Is moved to pity: now he must hold his hand
Like a branch out in the sun and rain for weeks
Until the young are hatched and fledged and flown.


And since the whole thing’s imagined anyhow,
Imagine being Kevin. Which is he?
Self-forgetful or in agony all the time

From the neck on out down through his hurting fore-arms?
Are his fingers sleeping? Does he still feel his knees?
Or has the shut-eyed blank of underearth

Crept up through him? Is there distance in his head?
Alone and mirrored clear in love’s deep river,
‘To labour and not to seek reward,’ he prays,

A prayer his body makes entirely
For he has forgotten self, forgotten bird
And on the riverbank forgotten the river’s name.

From “Human Chain”, 2010



It’s winter at the seaside where they’ve gone
For the wedding meal. And I am at the table,
Uninvited, ineluctable.

A skirl of gulls. A smell of cooking fish.
Plump dormant silver. Stranded silence. Tears.
Their bibbed waitress unlids a clinking dish

And leaves them to it, under chandeliers.
And to all the anniversaries of this
They are not ever going to observe

Or mention even in the years to come.
And now the man who drove them here will drive
Them back, and by evening we’ll be home.

Chanson d’Aventure

Love’s mysteries in souls do grow,
But yet the body in his book.


Strapped on, wheeled out, forklifted, locked
In position for the drive,
Bone-shaken, bumped at speed,

The nurse a passenger in front, you ensconced
In her vacated corner seat, me flat on my back –
Our ostures all the journey still the same,

Everithing and nothing spoken,
Our eyebeams threaded laser-fast, no transport
Ever like it until then, in the sunlit cold

Of a Saturday morning ambulance
When we might, O my love, have quoted Donne
On love on hold, body and soul apart.




 Poetry: main collections

1966: Death of a Naturalist, Faber & Faber

1969: Door into the Dark, Faber & Faber

1972: Wintering Out, Faber & Faber

1975: Stations, Ulsterman

1975: North, Faber & Faber

1979: Field Work, Faber & Faber

1984: Station Island, Faber & Faber

1987: The Haw Lantern, Faber & Faber

1991: Seeing Things, Faber & Faber

1996: The Spirit Level, Faber & Faber

2001: Electric Light, Faber & Faber

2006: District and Circle, Faber & Faber

2010: Human Chain, Faber & Faber


Poetry: collected editions

1980: Selected Poems 1965-1975, Faber & Faber

1990: New Selected Poems 1966-1987, Faber & Faber

1998: Opened Ground: Poems 1966-1996, Faber & Faber

Prose: main collections

1980: Preoccupations: Selected Prose 1968-1978, Faber & Faber

1988: The Government of the Tongue, Faber & Faber

1995: The Redress of Poetry: Oxford Lectures, Faber & Faber

2002: Finders Keepers: Selected Prose 1971-2001, Faber & Faber


1990: The Cure at Troy A version of Sophocles’ Philoctetes, Field Day

2004: The Burial at Thebes A version of Sophocles’ Antigone, Faber & Faber


1983: Sweeney Astray: A version from the Irish, Field Day

1992: Sweeney’s Flight (with Rachel Giese, photographer), Faber & Faber

1993: The Midnight Verdict: Translations from the Irish of Brian Merriman and from the Metamorphoses of Ovid, Gallery Press

1995: Laments, a cycle of Polish Renaissance elegies by Jan Kochanowski, translated with Stanisław Barańczak, Faber & Faber

1999: Beowulf, Faber & Faber

1999: Diary of One Who Vanished, a song cycle by Leoš Janáček of poems by Ozef Kalda, Faber & Faber

2002: Hallaig, Sorley MacLean Trust

2002: Arion, a poem by Alexander Pushkin, translated from the Russian, with a note by Olga Carlisle, Arion Press

2004: The Testament of Cresseid, Enitharmon Press

2004: Columcille The Scribe, The Royal Irish Academy

2009: The Testament of Cresseid & Seven Fables, Faber & Faber

Limited editions and booklets (poetry and prose)

1965: Eleven Poems, Queen’s University

1968: The Island People, BBC

1968: Room to Rhyme, Arts Council N.I.

1969: A Lough Neagh Sequence, Phoenix

1970: Night Drive, Gilbertson

1970: A Boy Driving His Father to Confession, Sceptre Press

1973: Explorations, BBC

1975: Stations, Ulsterman Publications

1975: Bog Poems, Rainbow Press

1975: The Fire i’ the Flint, Oxford University Press

1976: Four Poems, Crannog Press

1977: Glanmore Sonnets, Editions Monika Beck

1977: In Their Element, Arts Council N.I.

1978: Robert Lowell: A Memorial Address and an Elegy, Faber & Faber

1978: The Makings of a Music, University of Liverpool

1978: After Summer, Gallery Press

1979: Hedge School, Janus Press

1979: Ugolino, Carpenter Press

1979: Gravities, Charlotte Press

1979: A Family Album, Byron Press

1980: Toome, National College of Art and Design

1981: Sweeney Praises the Trees, Henry Pearson

1982: A Personal Selection, Ulster Museum

1982: Poems and a Memoir, Limited Editions Club

1983: An Open Letter, Field Day

1983: Among Schoolchildren, Queen’s University

1984: Verses for a Fordham Commencement, Nadja Press

1984: Hailstones, Gallery Press

1985: From the Republic of Conscience, Amnesty International

1985: Place and Displacement, Dove Cottage

1985: Towards a Collaboration, Arts Council N.I.

1986: Clearances, Cornamona Press

1988: Readings in Contemporary Poetry, DIA Art Foundation

1988: The Sounds of Rain, Emory University

1989: An Upstairs Outlook, Linen Hall Library

1989: The Place of Writing, Emory University

1990: The Tree Clock, Linen Hall Library

1991: Squarings, Hieroglyph Editions

1992: Dylan the Durable, Bennington College

1992: The Gravel Walks, Lenoir Rhyne College

1992: The Golden Bough, Bonnefant Press

1993: Keeping Going, Bow and Arrow Press

1993: Joy or Night, University of Swansea

1994: Extending the Alphabet, Memorial University of Newfoundland

1994: Speranza in Reading, University of Tasmania

1995: Oscar Wilde Dedication, Westminster Abbey

1995: Charles Montgomery Monteith, All Souls College

1995: Crediting Poetry: The Nobel Lecture, Gallery Press

1997: Poet to Blacksmith, Pim Witteveen

1998: Commencement Address, UNC Chapel Hill

1998: Audenesque, Maeght

1999: The Light of the Leaves, Bonnefant Press

2001: Something to Write Home About, Flying Fox

2002: Hope and History, Rhodes University

2002: Ecologues in Extremis, Royal Irish Academy

2002: A Keen for the Coins, Lenoir Rhyne College

2003: Squarings, Arion Press

2004: Anything can Happen, Town House Publishers

2005: The Door Stands Open, Irish Writers Centre

2005: A Shiver, Clutag Press

2007: The Riverbank Field, Gallery Press

2008: Articulations, Royal Irish Academy

2008: One on a Side, Robert Frost Foundation

2009: Spelling It Out, Gallery Press

Critical studies of Heaney

1993: The Poetry of Seamus Heaney ed. by Elmer Andrews,

1993: Seamus Heaney: The Making of the Poet by Michael Parker,

1995: ritical essays on Seamus Heaney ed. by Robert F. Garratt,

1998: The Poetry of Seamus Heaney: A Critical Study by Neil Corcoran,

2000: Seamus Heaney by Helen Vendler, Harvard University Press

2003: Seamus Heaney and the Place of Writing by Eugene O’Brien, University Press of Florida,

2004: Seamus Heaney Searches for Answers by Eugene O’Brien, Pluto Press: London.

2007: Seamus Heaney and the Emblems of Hope by Karen Marguerite Moloney.

2007: Seamus Heaney: Creating Irelands of the Mind by Eugene O’Brien, Liffey Press.

2009: The Cambridge Companion to Seamus Heaney edited by Bernard O’Donoghue

2010: Poetry and Peace: Michael Longley, Seamus Heaney, and Northern Ireland by Richard Rankin Russell.

2010: Defending Poetry: Art and Ethics in Joseph Brodsky, Seamus Heaney, and Geoffrey Hill by David-Antoine Williams

Selected discography

2003 The Poet & The Piper – Seamus Heaney & Liam O’Flynn.

2009 Collected Poems – Recording of Heaney reading all of his collected poems.

Major prizes and honours

1966 Eric Gregory Award

1967 Cholmondeley Award

1968 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize

1975 EM Forster Award

1975 Duff Cooper Memorial Prize

1995 Nobel Prize for Literature

1996 Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres

2006 T S Eliot Prize for District and Circle

2007 Poetry Now Award for District and Circle

2009 David Cohen Prize for Literature

2011 Poetry Now Award for Human Chain

2011 Griffin Poetry Prize for Human Chain



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‘IN POETRY- Philosophy of Poetics and Languages’

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