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Opened Ground: Poems 1966-1996 Paperback – 2 Jan 2002

4.5 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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  • Opened Ground: Poems 1966-1996
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  • Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney
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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (2 Jan. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571194931
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571194933
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 3.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 77,916 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

In "Digging", the first poem in Opened Ground, Heaney likens his pen to both spade and gun. With these metaphors in place, he makes clear his difficult poetic task: to delve into the past, both personal and historic, while remaining ever mindful of the potentially fatal power of language. Born and raised in Northern Ireland, where any hint of Gaelic tradition in one's speech was considered a political act, Heaney is all too aware of the dire consequences of speaking one's mind. Indeed, during times of crisis, he has been expected to appear on television and dispense political wisdom. Most often, however, he stays out of the fray and opts for a supreme sense of empathy to guide his words.

As excavator--of earth, of his beloved Gaelic, of his own life--Heaney is unmatched. In "Bone Dreams", the archaeologist's task is synonymous with reaching for a cultural past:

I push back
through dictions,
Elizabethan canopies,
Norman devices,

the erotic mayflowers
of Provence
and the ivied Latins
of churchmen

to the scop's
twang, the iron
flash of consonants
cleaving the line.
And in early poems like "Blackberry Picking", Heaney's images--deftly, delightfully--carry us back to childhood fields:
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...
Opened Ground is a pleasure and a triumph. These three decades of work confirm Heaney as one of the most important poets of his time. --Martha Silano --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"[This collection] eloquently confirms his status as the most skillful and profound poet writing in English today."--Edward Mendelson, "The New York Times Book Review"
"Perhaps the best descriptions of Seamus Heaney's extraordinarily rich and varied oeuvre come from the poet's own work. Mr. Heaney has created a remarkable series of poems that stay 'true to the impact of external reality' while at the same time remaining 'sensitive to the inner laws of the poet's being.'"--Michiko Kakutani, "The New York Times"
"Having just reread most of his poems, I find myself more, not less, interested, and convinced that I have only begun to plumb their bracing depths . . . The poems stay in the mind, which is the one essential feature of major poetry."--Jay Parini, "The Nation"
"Heaney's commitment to the independence of his art, to the pursuit of shape and richness and abundant ambiguity, is also a profound commitment to the quality of public life . . . In a dark time, Heaney . . . has turned borders and dividing lines into rich frontiers."--Fintan O'Toole, T"he New York Review of Books"


[This collection] eloquently confirms his status as the most skillful and profound poet writing in English today. "Edward Mendelson, The New York Times Book Review"

Perhaps the best descriptions of Seamus Heaney's extraordinarily rich and varied oeuvre come from the poet's own work. Mr. Heaney has created a remarkable series of poems that stay 'true to the impact of external reality' while at the same time remaining 'sensitive to the inner laws of the poet's being.' "Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times"

Having just reread most of his poems, I find myself more, not less, interested, and convinced that I have only begun to plumb their bracing depths . . . The poems stay in the mind, which is the one essential feature of major poetry. "Jay Parini, The Nation"

Heaney's commitment to the independence of his art, to the pursuit of shape and richness and abundant ambiguity, is also a profound commitment to the quality of public life . . . In a dark time, Heaney . . . has turned borders and dividing lines into rich frontiers. "Fintan O'Toole, The New York Review of Books"" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I love Seamus Heaney's poetry and I have a few scattered collections - Stations, Death of a Naturalist - but I've recently treated myself to this because it covers most of Seamus' collections, from the first in 1966 right up to The Spirit Level in 1996. This gives a wonderful overview of the development of his work and it also includes his Nobel lecture 'Crediting Poetry'.

Seamus chose the poems to be included himself, weeding out ones he was no longer happy with and some of the poems were re-written, though the alterations are so minor it's difficult to find any differences.

All my favourites are there - The Forge, Digging, The Barn, Churning Day, and his prose poem The Stations of the West, which describes how he was sent to the Gaeltacht to learn Gaelic and hoped, perhaps, to learn something of the Celtic mysteries. These visions are denied the child, but there are other kinds of revelation. It ends:

'Neither did any gift of tongues descend in my days in that upper room when all around me seemed to prophesy. But still I would recall the stations of the west, white sand, hard rock, light ascending like its definition over Ranna-fast and Errigal, Annaghry and Kincasslagh; names portable as altar stones, unleavened elements.'

Other favourites are the poems about his childhood home, Mossbawn, political poems such as The Ministry of Fear, Oysters, The Skunk - his erotic poem to his wife, peeling potatoes with Mary Heaney in 'Clearances', then the beautiful Postscript, and finally Song -

'There are the mud-flowers of dialect
And the immortelles of perfect pitch
And that moment when the bird sings very close
To the music of what happens.'

Yes, that's it exactly - that's what the poetry does. Words like 'big, soft buffetings' that come at you sideways 'And catch the heart off guard and blow it open'.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm not much into poetry but after Heaney's death I saw a few tv programmes about him and thought I should learn more. I'm still no wiser about poetry, I suppose you either get it or you don't. I went to a school in N I where we learnt the English poets, not the Irish, an unbalanced system if ever. Anyway. As one who did the science thing rather than the literature I can say he has an amazing way with words and expression and often builds a tempo that powers the lot along in an engaging way. One has pause to thought. I have marked many poems and will return to them as time and mood permit.
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Format: Paperback
What a collection. A life's work that is still continuing and must be read. Heaney taps into the undergrowth of nature and links it beautifully to our own lives like no other poet. His sonnets "Clearances" are beautiful, and even in one case, humourous. His subjects vary of course, but always with that earthy mood that is so typically Seamus Heaney. As a reader of poetry you must own this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In the author's note at the beginning of this volume of his poetry, Seamus Heaney (1939-2013) tells us that these poems are gathered to be somewhere between a selection and a collection. Indeed, OPENED GROUND contains the essential poems from twelve of the previous published volumes of Heaney's amazing and accessible poetry...and his 1995 acceptance speech for the Nobel prize. I ordered this volume because it contains his love poem to his wife Marie..."The Skunk."

Several days after Heaney's passing on August 30, 2013, my Irish-loving friends began posting on social media and in emails their favorite poems and meetings with the beloved Irish poet. I posted the page in my THE HAW LANTERN that contains his "Clearances"...written for his mother Mary Heaney... and his signature. Three members of my first literary tour of Ireland in 1986, including UNF Professor Emeritus Dick Bizot, wanted to have a reading in memoriam. Another friend, a Joycean scholar, wrote on Facebook that he was the only serious reader of Irish literature who had not met Heaney. Michael O'Shea, who lectures wittingly about Finnegans Wake then offered Heaney's great love poem in tribute.

It's a fine and thoughtful poem..."The Skunk." But I regret buying the paperback. I found a nice copy of the poem on the internet and printed it. A lively 70-something Irish American veterinarian in a red shirt read it at our memoriam. And I'm searching again on Amazon...and a few other places...for a nice hardcover of OPENED GROUND for many future readings.

The paperback edition, beside its binding, has a rather small and faint type.

(Lucky Amazon UK shoppers. Faber publishes a hardcover reprint of Opened Ground on November 7, 2013.)
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Format: Paperback
Blackberry-Picking

the day after Seamus Heaney died
i went to search for blackberries

at the end of August,
the end of summer
just before the west coast rains
began again
before the cold
shouldered itself back in

Most were already gone
the determined with their sticks
having already beaten the bushes flat,
taken everything

the only ones that i could find
were those
where people didn't want to go

beyond the twisted shins
of the disused rail lines
out of site of condominiums ,
the mutually assured policing
by ordinariness ,
the cosy paranoia of neighbors

beyond the homeless peoples
seasonal campsite
the unpicked bulges of their possessions
hanging overripe in white plastic bags
from thin limb trees

out to where the fruit still lived

the thick rosary of berry flesh still unbroken
the solid blood uncut , untroubled
loosening me in its gravity

the stigmata of juice
pressing through my hands
as i promised that dead Irishman
whom i had never met
that i would eat as many as i could

none would go to waste

the rat grey fungus would be banished
the sourness of decay would not be known
at least in this place, for this one day.
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