Just as Heaney's poetry is not to everyone's taste, Corcoran's guide is not, contingent on what readers are searching for. In it, he deals with his first six anthologies together with an opening chapter on biographical details:
"Death of a Naturalist" (1966) "Door into the Dark" (1969) "Wintering Out" (1972) "North" (1975) "Field Work" (1979) "Station Island" (1984)
When Corocran wrote this under the title of "A Student's Guide", he had a particular type of student in mind. Students looking for a poem-by-poem analysis for their coursework (often just to plunder or plagiarise) or other studies - GCSE, AS, A - will be disappointed as will the pearled and twin-setted lady who asked T.S. Eliot what "Little Gidding" meant after a reading. (The anecdote suggests he smiled and read it again.) He had imagined a student willing to do a great deal of thinking, willing to feel lost on occasions and open to poetic journeys without the constant aid of a compass.
Corcoran takes a broader brush and, while dealing fairly thoroughly with the anthologies, he creates an poetic atmosphere, a growing-up and a maturing by looking more widely at his work. It is not a simple question and answer. To be must helpful, I suggest reading each chapter with the anthology and a pencil to hand for ease of reference.
With that student in mind, he provides good insights into Heaney's poetry and a helpful but brief biography of his life so far.
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Yes, I agree with the previous review: goodness knows what kind of 'student' the author had in mind - this is in fact an entirely personal reflection, not even an interpretation, of some of Heaney's work. It is written in a rather awkward jargon-loaded style: worse, it depends upon the reader already having a fairly broad knowledge of 'literature', and specifically the texts Heaney alludes to in his poems. This 'text' would be best left to someone who is already very familiar with Heaney and who has is looking for something 'extra' - certainly not a 'student' i.e. someone who is just beginning to look at Heaney at even A level - I think the title 'Further Thoughts on Heaney for the Expert' would have been more apt.