George Cusack Biographically and poetically, Field Work (1979) represents Seamus Heaney's withdrawal from Northern Ireland. Biographically, the poems in this collection center around the poet's move from Belfast to County Wicklow in the Republic. Accompanying this change in location is a radical change in the nature poet's public life. Prior to the move, Heaney had been a teacher at Queen's University, Belfast, and an outspoken advocate against the British presence in Ireland; in Wicklow, distanced from the center of Irish political unrest, Heaney devoted himself entirely to poetry, and largely dropped out of the public political sphere.1 The personal upheaval which resulted in and from this moment of change is reflected poetically in the subject matter and structure of Field Work, especially when compared to North (1975), Heaney's previous volume. In 1977, two years after the publication of North, Heaney described his poetry as a "slow, obstinate papish burn."2 In 1979, reflecting on the years he spent writing Field Work, Heaney offers a much less politically charged focus for his art: "Those years [. . .] were an important growth time when I was asking myself the proper function of poets and poetry and learning a new commitment
New Hibernia Review – Center for Irish Studies at the University of St. Thomas
Published: Jan 11, 2002
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