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Death of a Naturalist: Poems
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Death of a Naturalist: Poems

4.29 of 5 stars 4.29  ·  rating details  ·  994 ratings  ·  57 reviews
Death of a Naturalist (1966) marked the auspicious debut of a universally
acclaimed master of modern literature. As a first book of poems, it is
remarkable for its accurate perceptions and rich linguistic gifts.

ebook, 58 pages
Published February 4th 2014 by Faber & Faber (first published 1966)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,988)
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Samir Rawas Sarayji
This review has been moved to Samir's Critical Corner here.
David Lentz
I began reading this first book of poetry by the Nobel Laureate from Ireland a few weeks ago. My wife and daughter were traveling on the Dingle Peninsula and stayed a few nights visiting Trinity College and drank pints of Guinness and Bushmills at the Temple Bar and witnessed the statues of James Joyce and Oscar Wilde in the greens of the great Gaelic capital. Ireland is an island which adores its poets, literary novelists and playwrights with a national ardor that I devoutly wish for my own cou...more
Dublin James
Living in Dublin, i have actually seen Seamus Heaney in person. About 5 years ago i was on a train that was about to pull out of Connolly Station. Just before it did i noticed Heaney and his wife standing on the platform facing me. in my drunken state i jumped up excitedly. "My God!" i thought, "its Seamus Heaney the noble prize winning poet! Someone who had been spoon fed to me for years in school!"........

I frantically tried to open the window so as to call out to him but alas the train pulle...more
Brian Robbins
Coming back to this volume of poems after many years, it was an absolute joy & I found myself upping my rating of it to 5 stars. The delightful quality of the poems in themselves, which breathe & encapsulate the world that Heaney inhabits & present it to the reader in the most vivid of images deserve regular re-readings in order to soak in them.

Their attraction was probably heightened by reading them during a 5 hour coach journey (I loath the enclosure, discomfort & stuffiness of...more
Christopher
Released in 1966, Death of a Naturalist was the first collection by the Irish poet Seamus Heaney. While his later work would be more far-ranging, this debut is deeply concerned with the Irish countryside.

Many the poems deal with traditional labour. “Digging”, perhaps his most famous poem, begins with a descriptive of the poet’s father digging up potatoes with a spade and ends with Heaney’s proclamation that the pen will be his tool of choice. In “Follower” he describes how he would walk behind h...more
V.
Seamus Heaney is one of my favorite poets, although it's been too long since I last read him. The first lines in "Digging," the first poem in this collection, still ring loud and clear for me: "Between my finger and my thumb/The squat pen rests;/as snug as a gun."

What I like best about Heaney's poetry is the sensual earthiness of it. You can hear the slop of mud and feel the earth yield beneath your spade. This has always seemed magical to me.
Ashley
In memory and honor of Seamus Heaney, this evening Oleg and I alternated reading aloud from "Death of a Naturalist." Some favorite poems include "Digging," "Death of a Naturalist," "Blackberry-Picking," "Mid-Term Break," "The Diviner," "Scaffolding," and "Personal Helicon." Seamus Heaney read many of these poems at a reading that I attended at St. Oswald's Church in Grasmere, England in the summer of 2010.
Heather
A really wonderful collection of poems. Heaney takes ordinary sights and activities growing up in rural Ireland and makes them into something beautiful.

Personal favourites include Mid-term Break, Waterfall, Twice Shy, Poem for Marie and The Play Way but the whole book is rich and deserves to be read from cover to cover
Larissa
I came upon Death of a Naturalist in a roundabout fashion, even for me. I wanted to find an example of slant rhyme, since my little sister had written a poem using this, I thought, and I wanted to make sure I paid an accurate compliment. So I googled "slant rhyme" and came across a poetry site that used the poem "Digging," which opens this collection, as an example. There was an audio track of Heaney reading the poem and I was so taken with it that I went the next day to the university library a...more
Steven Quayle
Churning Day
For Jennifer

A thick crust, coarse-grained as limestone rough-cast,
hardened gradually on top of the four crocks
that stood, large pottery bombs, in the small pantry.
After the hot brewery of gland, cud and udder
cool porous earthenware fermented the buttermilk
for churning day, when the hooped churn was scoured
with plumping kettles and the busy scrubber
echoed daintily on the seasoned wood.
It stood then, purified, on the flagged kitched floor.

Out came the four crocks, spilled their heavy l...more
Jsavett1
This is Heaney's first collection, long before he earned his monumental reputation. These poems are fantastic. Self-assured and sensitive, they display Heaney's facility with language and exquisite taste in word choice (except for the record number of times he says "bog" or "sod"!!!) these poems, though rising from the...bogs...of his Irish childhood, cover a variety of relatable topics, like the death of his brother, his father's haunting influence as he ages. A pro at his beginning.
Matt
Like eating mudpies and bathing in dirt, stones for molars and fog for breath. Also: sod and bog, bog and sod.

[4 stars for peat and whiskey.]
Oleg Kagan
I bought this book for Ashley a while ago, but when Seamus Heaney died, reading it took on a different type of urgency. So, we sat together and read through the entire book alternating poems as an unofficial eulogy for the eminent poet.

I had read Heaney in the past, a poem here and there, but I'd never sat down for a whole book. Of any of them, Death of a Naturalist is a good one to sit down with, as it is his first book. As a first book, it is auspicious in that it begins an exploration of them...more
Ian Mathers
I bought this years ago (due to having read and loved Heaney's translation of Beowulf) and honestly I'm pretty sure I'd read the whole thing, albeit in bits and pieces over time. Hearing today that Heaney had died I took it down from the shelf and read the whole thing start to finish; it's a very slim volume, so it didn't take long. I can't say I liked it more than I had before, but it did renew my appreciation for Heaney's work. I'm not particularly well versed (sorry) in either poetry in gener...more
Katie
Death of a Naturalist is a wonderful collection of poems which chiefly deal with Heaney’s rural Irish childhood and heritage. Individually, they are earthy and emotional and they combine together to form an impressive and coherent whole picture. What sets Heaney’s poetry apart is the sensuous quality of the language, how the words sound when said aloud and how they feel in the mouth. He seems to take great delight in rhyme, in onomatopoeia, in sibilant and plosive sounds and the physicality of w...more
Kerri Anne Stebbins
Heaney: "I rhyme
to see myself, to set the darkness echoing."

Me: "I read
to find the river, to hear my father beckoning."

Heaney: "Did sea define the land or land the sea?
Each drew new meaning from the waves' collision.
Sea broke on land to full identity."

Me: "Was I born on a mountaintop or at the bottom of the sea?
Anew I find myself with vistas for water and salt for air.
Maybe my mother had nothing to do with me."

Heaney: "The burn drowns steadily in its own downpour,
A helter-skelter of muslin...more
Craig
On one hand, I can say that this book just "wasn't my type" of poetry. On the other hand, I can say that the rhythms, the choice(s) of words, the flow of the language... All are incredible and I can see where Heaney's fame has come from. And so I have a very hard time rating this collection. Consider this a very high 3 stars if you are into a more 'down-home' sort of writing. It almost reminds me of an 'old-west' American verse, though of course, it isn't...

If that isn't enough rambling, I must...more
Simon Dobson

I rhyme
To see myself, to set the darkness echoing.


Heaney's first volume of poems all relate to his growing-up in the country. Lots of the allusions are to an Ireland that still exists, untouched by the progress, boom, and bust of recent years, recognisably "country".

The most famous poem in this volume is "Mid-term break", describing Heaney's returning home to the funeral of his younger brother, once again perfectly recognisable as an Irish country removal and wake in a way that wouldn't be famil...more
Matt
Having read Heaney's "Wintering Out" and hating it, I thought that I would give him a second chance with another collection. This was probably a bad call, as I hated this any more. Where is the value in this? It gets to the point where it is entirely grotesque and offensive. There is literally a poem in this collection about killing puppies and kittens. I'm not easily offended, but I actually managed to find this collection of poems offensive. First, it was offensive in the way that I thought th...more
Cindy
Jul 04, 2014 Cindy marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Gary Lightbody (whom I love almost as much as I love the Doctor) wrote a song called Reading Heaney To Me.

"Just use your voice
and Heaney's words
Dig your way through to my heart
plant your flag and set up camp"

"Just you and me and naturalists
held with tender hands and mouth"


It made me curious enough to look this book up. Gary Lightbody is a GOD to me, so I think this warrants a reading!
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
I've been re-reading this alongside Derek Walcott's 'Midsummer' and it underscores the differences between the two poets. Walcott packs his poems with rich metaphors and similes, creating startlingly vivid images through unexpected combinations of adjectives and verbs. Heaney is more craggy, austere, full of precise specific terms for kinds of soil and vegetation. Both gaze at the world around them, but Walcott's regard is forever being reflected back upon himself while Heaney is more often focu...more
Jaimie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chris Hall
Heaney's first major published book of poetry, Death of a Naturalist is also among his most accessible works.

"Digging" introduces a theme that extends throughout the rest of Heaney's work: the contrast between his County Derry farm-boy childhood and the erudite realm of poetry.

I cannot think of a better poem on the essence of childhood's impermanence than "Blackberry Picking," and "Personal Helicon" serves as a reminder for why we we write. As Heaney puts it, "...I rhyme/ To see myself, to set...more
Nicole Danielle
I haven't read this in it's entirely but it contains one of my favorite poems "Blackberry-Picking," so my rating is slighly specific. Not gonna lie, I read this in my high school AP English class but it's one of those poems that makes a lasting impression. 11 years later and I can still recall when, where and what I was feeling the first time I read it.
Teresa
I had just returned to this book of poems when Seamus Heaney died - it took me a long time to complete re-reading them as they became so difficult emotionally. Such wonderful poetry.
Catherine
I keep forgetting not to get poetry on rings or rays through Bookcrossing because the good stuff needs to be read and re-read and the bad stuff isn't worth the postage. This falls into the former category, but I suspect I have only scratched the surface of it. I can see and hear and feel the countryside in most of the poems, but they feel purely descriptive and don't say as much to me as the more personal ones such as Valediction & Scaffolding. Lest you think I'm just a soppy female, I also...more
Frederick Gault
IMHO Follower is one of the great poems in the English language.
Matthew Newton
Thought-provoking collection of poems. Hefty price tag though.
Roger DeBlanck
These exquisite poems are preservations of memory. Many pieces recall Heaney’s youth and his indelible experiences with nature, revealing the awe and wonder of the world’s natural function as it runs its course. In these remembrances, Heaney produces visceral images that evoke shock, terror, amazement, and reverence. When thinking of his past, Heaney captures the emotional tie he has to his family lineage. In addition, several pieces capture both the joy and perplexity of love. Regardless of sub...more
Peter
This collection of poetry was such a joy that I felt a tiny bit agitated once I had finished reading the final poem: a great nostalgic journey was at an end, and it is much too soon. But there in lies the breath and depth of the journey itself I suppose. I admit to not fully understanding some of the poems, but I never felt compelled to stop and disect them. It seemed to me not to fully matter, I was too caught up in the language, the rhythms and the dramatic sounds. A book of poems I will cheri...more
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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...
Opened Ground: Selected Poems, 1966-1996 Selected Poems, 1966-1987 North District and Circle Antigone

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