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Opened Ground: Poems 1966–1996 by…

Opened Ground: Poems 1966–1996 (1998)

by Seamus Heaney

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1,194710,789 (4.28)19
This volume is a much-needed new selection of Seamus Heaney's work, taking account of recent volumes and of the author's work as a translator, and offering a more generous choice from previous volumes. Opened Ground: Poems 1966-1996 comes as close to being a 'Collected Poems' as its author cares to make it. It replaces his New Selected Poems 1966-1987, giving a fuller selection from each of the volumes represented there and adding large parts of those that have appeared since, together with examples of his work as a translator from the Greek, Latin, Italian and other languages. The book concludes with 'Crediting Poetry', the speech with which Seamus Heaney accepted the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature, awarded to him, in the words of the Swedish Academy of Letters, for his 'works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth'.… (more)

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» See also 19 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
I picked this book to comply with the Literary Awards Mini Challenge from the 2013 Reading Challenge group to read a book by an author who has received the Nobel Prize in Literature. I went through the list and ended up with Seamus Heaney. He wrote in English and I haven't read a lot of poetry.

I didn't realize till after that I had already read a book by him:
[b:Beowulf: A New Verse Translation|52357|Beowulf A New Verse Translation|Unknown|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327878125s/52357.jpg|189503]
which I read in high school and the only thing I remember about it is that Beowulf refused to die in the end. I think I'll try give it another chance at some point.

Anyway, this book brings together many of the author's famous poems over the years. I unfortunately had numerous books out from the library so I read this faster than I initially planned to and was not able to take my time going through all the poems. Also, as I have mentioned in other reviews, English class was not my forte.

I liked many of his poems, particularly the translations of Greek poems since I love Greek mythology. I did also laugh that there were passages from the Aeneid translated since I have also translated parts when I took Latin in high school. Seamus Heaney did a better job than me not surprisingly. ( )
1 vote renrav | Sep 22, 2013 |
Seamus Heaney is certainly a great Irish poet and a great naturalist poet. I think he goes even beyond just those limits. His poetry, in my mind, embodies everything that makes the English language and English poetry so wonderful and unique. I really hope that when 20th century poetry is taught in 21st century schools that no curriculum skips past Heaney. ( )
1 vote palaverofbirds | Mar 29, 2013 |
Magnificent poems by one of my favorite writers. ( )
  isetziol | Nov 7, 2008 |
Seamus Heaney is a master at his craft. His poems are evocative and ensnaring. They deal with the culture of Ireland in actions and landmarks. His works are emotional and stirring. ( )
1 vote Joles | May 7, 2008 |
Berry season is here! I could smell their summery juice on the air currents during a recent hike, and although I haven't been out to pick my own yet, the markets are suddenly glutted with delicious, ripe berries of all stripes: rasp, blue, black, marion, straw, logan - they're all there, waiting for me to cave to temptation. All throughout berry season, as I stuff scrumptious fruit into my mouth in an effort to consume the totally unrealistic number of berries I always end up purchasing, and as I mourn over the molded cartons that I wake up to the next day, a certain couplet runs ceaselessly through my head. "It wasn't fair," it starts: the last two lines of Seamus Heaney's gorgeous "Blackberry-picking." Since the verses were already rattling around in my brain, I found it a good excuse to reinstate my poetry-memorization project for July.

Late August, given heavy rain and sun,
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn-pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.

We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.

As sublime as individual lines are throughout the poem - "a glossy purple clot," "We hoarded fresh berries in the byre," "You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet / Like thickened wine" - it's that final couplet that really makes the poem shine for me. It speaks so eloquently to a universal tendency on all our parts, knowing one thing and stubbornly hoping another. Even though I still engage in this kind of "magical thinking," I associate its hopefulness particularly with that time just before adolescence when we begin to suspect certain truths about the adult world, but still retain a some of childhood's fuzziness around cause and effect, reality and hope. That one line takes the poem's nostalgia for childhood summers and transforms it into something deeper, leaving the childhood self intact, and simultaneously glancing toward the growing-up process. There is a feeling of existing between two states, or in both states simultaneously. "Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not." It's masterfully done.

I also love what "Blackberry Picking" has to say about the futility of hoarding riches away from their source: "Once off the bush / The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour." This must also be a universally devastating and intriguing experience, judging from all the fairy-, folk- and popular tales featuring elusive riches, vanishing piles of gold, Holy Grails that slip through our fingers, the bullion at the end of the rainbow, bewitched banquets, and so on. It's difficult to look at bounty and understand that it can't effectively be gathered to one's bosom and kept there without losing its shine and beauty. And it's equally crushing to accept that the glut of treasure in good times can't eliminate the lean times of scarcity, even if they can temper them. I love the way Heaney's poem moves from expectation, through lust and exuberance, to heartbreak, and on to a simultaneous melancholia, distance and hope.

And of course, the real high-point is the scrumptiously tactile and specific language. In a poem about berries, it's particularly fitting that one feel as if one's hands and tongue get stained purple just from reading it. "Blackberry-picking" delivers this feeling so viscerally for me that it's never far from my mind when a berry is near. ( )
2 vote emily_morine | Jul 10, 2007 |
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