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Opened Ground: Selected Poems, 1966-1996

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  3,894 ratings  ·  105 reviews
As selected by the author, Opened Ground includes the essential work from Heaney's twelve previous books of poetry, as well as new sequences drawn from two of his landmark translations, The Cure at Troy and Sweeney Astray, and several previously uncollected poems. Heaney's voice is like no other--"by turns mythological and journalistic, rural and sophisticated, reminiscent ...more
Paperback, 464 pages
Published October 25th 1999 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published October 1st 1997)
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Sad day for the rest of us.
It's the time of year when everything brings this poem into my head. I think Seamus Heaney has a brilliant ability to create momentum. Also, blackberry picking is one of my favorite things that I never do anymore.


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.
Sep 03, 2013 Jonathan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
Re-reading as homage. God, the hard-edged music of him! Lines you feel in your mouth like chewy, brackish bread.

Interestingly, for me (and possibly for any of you who read my Recognitions review), is that the location of my first sighting of the ship in the sky was here (from Lightenings):

The annals say: when the monks of Clonmacnoise
Were all at prayers inside the oratory
A ship appeared above them in the air.

The anchor dragged along behind so deep
It hooked itself into the altar rails
And t
Anthony D Buckley
People in Northern Ireland rather think that Seamus Heaney – “Famous Seamus”, they say with irony – belongs to them. They feel he is close to them, expressing their everyday concerns. Even when he ventures into abstruse territory, for example, translating Beowulf or Antigone, Ulster people sense that even these texts express concerns they share with him.

Gaelic football is a big preoccupation in the area he was brought up. So when I found myself there discussing football, it was no surprise that
PGR Nair

Homage to Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)

Seamus Heaney, Ireland's foremost poet who won the 1995 Nobel Prize for Literature 'for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past' , died on Friday, August 30 . As the greatest Irish poet of his generation, he never lost his instinctive feel for the universal rhythms of rural life, his ability to see the extraordinary in the humblest of places, and to express it with an eloquence and beauty
Sarah Ryburn
This should really be on my "always reading shelf." I love his poetry. It's grounded, almost smelling of the earth (of his native Irish soil), and gritty without being graphic or turning too hard an edge. In an interview following the publication of his new translation of Beowulf, Heaney talks of the old Anglo-Saxon poet and the warrior culture evoked in the poem. He speaks about the heart of the poet grieved by the cruelty of the world, the loss of home, of safety, of companions: a grief not un ...more
I made this five stars in defiance of Michelle. I am THE Five Star Slut. And proud of it. But no...this is a brilliant collection of poetry. Seriously.

Heaney's diction reminds me that there are many small, old words which I do not know. When I read his poetry, I sense that he loves our language, but especially the kinds of words which are timeworn and can be held in the hand, words which, like old, oiled tools, have served and been put to good use. His metaphors rise up out of the landscape of his country; he writes of earth and natural setting, but he also wrtites with the perspective of an older man, looking back on familiar places and memo
If you like poetry then give this poet a try. I am glad I did. What a pleasure to read. I read this in the early morning part of my commute and it was wonderful to drink my morning coffee and enjoy such beautiful sentiments about both serious and humorous subject matter and even some mythology. Best reads pile. Highly recommended to those who enjoy reading poetry.
Poems mostly on the strange and ambiguous spaces of everyday life, which I often found a bit too vague to be very moving. The language, though, is unbelievable. I've never read anyone who had such an amazing ear for the jagged music of the English tongue, nor such an ability to craft the hard-edged cadences of Anglo-Saxon speech.
Kathleen Jones
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-wri
This is vintage Heaney, of course, and Heaney is one of those poets who can never be anyone other than who he is and whose voice is so a part of him and his words and themes that opening this book is like being rushed by a wave of Heaniness. The images of Ireland: cold, foggy, soggy, boggy, and peat-covered, are the meat of his art, even when the subject is not explicitly Irish. That aesthetic is the prevailing one throughout. Heaney has an eye for the quotidian as quotidian; he doesn't have to ...more
David Mills
The books I had been looking for had been checked out. There was nothing but crap to be found on the new acquisitions shelf. The librarian was announcing the library would be closing in five minutes. I saw this book waling towards the exit.

I had heard "Famous Seamus'" praises sung by historians, fellow celtaphiles (anam caras), Nobel Prize groupies, and even by my son who brought home a college assigned copy of Heaney's translation of Beowulf. What is more the feast of St. Patick's was to take
Cristina B
Jul 24, 2007 Cristina B rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: modern poets and those who enjoy Irish literature.
As if we needed any proof that Seamus Heaney's Nobel Prize in Literature was well-deserved--the (somewhat abridged) collection of his volumes of poetry from 1966-1996, contained in Opened Ground prove this. Heaney's collected poems illustrate a discovery of (Irish) heritage, an awakening from childhood into adulthood, and an astounding awareness of the "little" things in life. From the opening poem--the well-known "Digging"--we are immediately immersed in Heaney's world of ancestry, the burden o ...more
J. Mark
Oct 21, 2007 J. Mark rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: poets, poetry fans
Shelves: poetry
What does a Nobel Prize for poetry mean? Nothing unless it is accompanied by the kind of work Heaney has accomplished. Among my top 5 favorite poets ever, he may not appreciate my claim that he is a direct descendant of William Carlos Williams, but every poem has that same laser-like observation, that talent of looking into objects and scenes until they flower open into the world again. One could spend a life with this book.
It is, of course, pointless to mark a volume of poetry as "read." I will be returning to this volume, to read those poems yet undiscovered, to reread those that have touched me. This volume explores thirty years of Heaney's work; I enjoyed selecting a few from each era to compare and contrast how his writing and themes changed over time. Heaney is a storyteller, a weaver, a conjurer.

Very much love Seamus Heaney's work and this collection contains much of his very best. To be sure, there is plenty that I find obscure and difficult to penetrate (at least without a good teacher), but an equal number of poems with impeccable, compelling use of language that is completely accessible.
Ike Sharpless
I'm not usually a poetry guy, but wow - this collection has some of the most striking, powerful, evocative language I've ever come across. Heaney is second to none (Well, maybe second to Nabokov - but the two styles are quite different) in the sheer knock-you-over force of his imagery.

A favorite: Oysters

"Our shells clacked on the plates.
My tongue was a filling estuary,
My palate hung with starlight:
As I tasted the salty Pleiades
Orion dipped his foot into the water.

Alive and violated
They lay on th
In the author's note at the front of the paperback, Seamus Heaney (1939-2013) tells us that the number of poems in this volume is 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 Aug
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:
Beowulf: A New Verse Translation
which I read in high school and the only thing I remember about it is that Beowulf refused to die in the e
Scott Reeves
Have owned this volume for years and sampled from it on occasion. For some reason the poems had never really connected with me. I don't know if it was Heaney's recent death or my rapid advance through middle age but my latest foray into this volume has made me a believer.

The first poem that got me was "Mid-Term Break", a heart-breaking but entirely unsentimental look at the death of a much younger sibling. Things just get better from there. "Clearances," an homage to Heaney's mother, is stunning
To be honest, I couldn't finish it.
I wanted to give this three stars, because he at least deserves that. However, I didn't actually like it.
So, this writing is very unusual compared to my general reading. His depiction of Ireland is both heartbreaking and beautiful, and with analysis I connected much more than when leisurely reading. Poetry on his wife was also beautiful and sentimental.
BUT, it's not my cup of tea.
GIVE HIM A GO ANYWAY THOUGH. Hopefully in the future I will come to appreciate hi
Dec 12, 2009 Pat rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
It's on my read-over-and-over list along with Lord of the Rings, Great Expectations, Genesis, Song of Songs, King Lear (new to the list), and the dictionary.

If I could have a recording of someone saying all the Irish words and placenames, it would be complete.

Just released this year: a 13-CD set of Heaney reading his collected works. If you haven't heard him read:
Excellent, no
Jack Rabl
A fantastic collection ranging Heaney's career. A truly masterful poet, his meditations upon our life in and part of the natural world, family and ancestors, and the queasy banality of conflict will resonate for generations.
Glanmore Revisited from Seeing Things


Bare flags. Pump water. Winter-evening cold.
Our backs might never warm up but our faces
Burned from teh hearth-blaze and the hot whiskeys.
It felt remembered even then, an old
Rightness half-imagined or foretold,
As green stickes hissed and spat into the ashes
And whatever rampaged out there couldn't reach us,
Firelit, shuttered, slated and stone-walled.

Year after year, our game of Scrabble: love
Taken for granted like any other word
That was chanced on and
One of my favourite poets from this term -- I definitely like his later poems, and their complicated playful etymology, but throughout he's thoughtful and rewarding to read.
Initially NO
Love these lines,(from the poem 'Night Drive')
'I thought of you continuously
A thousand miles south where Italy
Laid its loin to France on the darkened sphere.'
I've read all the poems in here now, but I'm certainly not finished with them. I think they're terrific, even the ones I don't get, although I like best some of the most straightforward narratives and metaphors he offers. The Nobel lecture given at the end is good too; I like the emphasis on the importance of poetry, and us, remembering the positive note, not just ironically, even as we acknowledge all the good reasons for pessimism. I like the reading, along those lines, of a part of Yeats's Me ...more
Oct 03, 2011 Laura rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Laura by: Erin Hart
I've been dabbling around in this collection since Erin Hart read some of the poems in it in a presentation this spring at the Brainerd Library. ("What's in Your Writers Toolkit?") I was especially taken with "Digging". Last night I opened the collection at random and read p. 183-196 (Sweeney. Loved it. I'm not normally one to read long narrative poems but this was just very special and engaging and made me wonder about all the tales Heaney must have heard and collected before he turned out this ...more
Not a huge fan, but The Ministry of Fear was fairly good.
I think with a collection of any sort there are of course going to be pieces and periods you are more drawn too, such was the case with Opened Ground. I love, love Heaney's voice and words, but at time struggle with the translation and more narrative works. Overall this was fantastic. I wouldn't recommend reading it cover to cover, well honestly I would rarely recommend this collections. I think that if you hit a period you don't connect it can really hold up the reading and moving on to find la ...more
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  • Migration: New and Selected Poems
  • Collected Poems
  • In a Time of Violence: Poems
  • Collected Poems, 1948-1984
  • Poems and Prose
  • New and Collected Poems: 1931-2001
  • View With a Grain of Sand: Selected Poems
  • A New Selected Poems
  • The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems, 1966-1996
  • Selected Poems and Four Plays
  • Complete Poems
  • Otherwise: New & Selected Poems
  • Collected Poems
  • Poems 1968-1998
  • The Collected Poems
  • The Best of It: New and Selected Poems
  • Mother Love
  • Above the River: The Complete Poems
Seamus Justin Heaney was an Irish poet, writer and lecturer from County Derry, Ireland. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995, "for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past."

Heaney on Wikipedia.
More about Seamus Heaney...
Selected Poems, 1966-1987 Death of a Naturalist North The Burial at Thebes: A Version of Sophocles' Antigone District and Circle

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“Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.”
“We were small and thought we knew nothing Worth knowing. We thought words travelled the wires In the shiny pouches of raindrops, Each one seeded full with the light Of the sky, the gleam of the lines, and ourselves So infinitesimally scaled We could stream through the eye of a needle.” 1 likes
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