Field Work
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Field Work

4.27 of 5 stars 4.27  ·  rating details  ·  403 ratings  ·  22 reviews
"Field Work," which first appeared in 1979, is a superb collection of lyrics and narrative poems from one of the literary masters of our time. As the critic Dennis Donoghue wrote in "The New York Times Book Review": "In 1938, not a moment too soon, W. B. Yeats admonished his colleagues: 'Irish poets, learn your trade.' Seamus Heaney, born the following year, has learned hi...more
Paperback, 66 pages
Published April 1st 1981 by Farrar Straus Giroux (first published 1979)
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This collection of poems was published in 1976, four years after Heaney left Belfast with his family and moved south to County Wicklow, south of Dublin. Even here, though, far from the Troubles, his mind cannot leave the torment of Northern Ireland. In the opening poem, “Oysters”, as he is much in the present, “Our shells clacked on the plates/…Alive and violated/… Bivalves: the split bulb/…Millions of them ripped and shucked and scattered,” his thoughts gravitate northward. The first part of th...more
Read Heaney. A feast of poetry. Great enough to be your last meal, beautiful enough to weep. I especially loved the Glanmore Sonnets. So seamlessly he meditates from the Irish landscape to the landscape of his mind, his heart.
In "Field Work," sometimes Seamus Heaney lays on the poetry so thick that it makes me wince. I wish this collection had a little bit more of "My people think money and talk weather" and a little bit less of "My tongue moved, a slow relaxing hinge." And while I can't say I liked this book, I admit I'll probably go back to it again. It beguiles even as it bothers. As Gertrude Stein once said, "A masterpiece may be unwelcome but it is never dull."
I didn’t realize Seamus Heaney was from the North until I read Field Notes, and I think it shows. The first poem, “oysters” caught my attention right away with its description of “frond-lipped, brine-stung” bivalves. Heaney’s language, like that of all the great Irish writers, is sensual and sentimental, but whereas Irish poets evoke Irishness, but Heaney conjures up Ireland itself. In the first of the Glanmore Sonnets, Heaney describes the fog over “the turned-up acres” of a freshly ploughed fi...more
Seamus Heaney's poetry bursts with sensuality, regardless of the topic. He is equally passionate about love, Ireland, nature, and friends and family lost. This is especially true in poems like The Badgers, where a love of nature is entwined with both romantic love while also hinting at The Troubles.

An excellent book and an excellent poem, deserving of the Nobel Prize earned.
This is my first outing with poetry since school. Some of the poems I really connected with. Oysters really stands out. The presence of the Troubles, the fear, the tragedy was mostly subtle, blended in with the countryside, the people, nature. The poem about Bloody Sunday was powerful. However, there were a number of poems I just didn't get, and not being overly literary, I didn't mind that at all!
I will return to more of Heaney's work but not too soon, as poetry is quite alien to me. RIP Mr Hea...more
Apr 20, 2012 Caitlin rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: poetry lovers
I loved loved loved the first poem in this book. Like top-3 favorite. Blew me away. I was so excited for the remainder of the book. And...maybe I just wasn't in my right kind of analytical mood as I read, but the majority of the rest of the poems just seemed political and too rooted in a place I'm not familiar with. I couldn't connect. However, what came shining through was Heaney's talent. He has gobs of it. Such a direct density of language. I can definitely see myself returning to this one.
Apr 26, 2012 Mark rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
This book of poems was published the year I was in Ireland, and I heard Heaney read from it while there. I bought the book, asked Heaney to sign it, and gave it as a gift to Jeannette’s friend David Kaufman, who had suggested I go hear Heaney before I left for Ireland. It is wonderful poetry. I think Heaney’s mastery of language is unmatched. He uses it to connect the world as it is with his inner senses. From “The Badgers”:

How perilous is it to choose
Not to love the life we’re shown?
Dec 25, 2013 Sean rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
One of Heaney's earlier collections, "Field World" shows the reader a person of enormous sensitivity and talent at the start of his literary career. Particularly interesting is the influence of the Troubles on many of poems. It gives many of them an elegiac quality as a poet tries to interpret and capture the stresses and confusion of such a situation in Ireland at the time. A gentle introduction for anyone looking to start reading Seamus Heaney's work
Alyson Hagy
This may be my favorite volume of poems by Heaney. Poems like "Oysters" and "The Badgers" and the title poem just work for me. The American farm girl in my probably makes me very susceptible to the powers of Heaney's rural, physical lyrics. But that's all right with me. He's one of those writers who helps me see the natural world as important and strange (yet again). And he is, to state the obvious, a master of English rhythms and sounds.
Frances Sawaya
Since the death of Seamus Heaney, I returned to this work and had another look. I tried to read a poem or two each day and then relate them to the quilts made by Helen Heron (Northern Ireland). Both of them are/were such scholars who loved to explore the classics and then translate them into their own art forms (he - poetry; she-textiles). My favorite poem here remains the seductive "Oysters."
From Field Work:


A rowan like a lipsticked girl.
Between the by-road and the main road
Alder trees at a wet and dripping distance
Stand off among the rushes.

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

Really a beautifully crafted book of poetry.
My son loves to be read to from this book. He's two; I'm not sure what draws him in, but Heaney's percussive style and perfect meter are that compelling...I think I'd love this even if I didn't understand what the words meant. (Although, it's Heaney; my comprehension level is probably only about 40% more than my son's here...)
Aug 17, 2014 Jake rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
Heaney writes poetry like you think it should be done when you're a young man looking to understand the world as told through poetry. It's a little elusive, it's a bit fragile, and it can get you right when you're least expecting it. Old world, surely, and forever timeless and with lust for knowledge and experience.
Still digesting this earlier collection from Heaney.
It starts out very strongly with Oysters.
Here is the first stanza:
Our shells clacked on the plates.
My tongue was a filling estuary,
My palate hung with starlight:
As I tasted the salty Pleides
Orion dipped his foot into the water.
A small book of poetry exquisitely written. This being said, I find the work foreign, with names, places, words, all new and strange to me. Thus the poetry is often difficult to understand.
Josh Skaggs
My first introduction to Seamus Heaney. I like the sound of his words, and the way of living they invite me into.
I decided to read this again on hearing of Seamus Heaney's death. Outstanding piece of work that resonates throughout
I guess I expected a bunch of U2 songs. Pleasantly surprised by how weird and ambivalent this book is.
Dave Fishman
Oct 20, 2009 Dave Fishman rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Dave by: Michael Hofmann
Shelves: uf-coursework, own
Amazing poems re: the Troubles. Mixed bag re: nature, etc.
Oysters, Glanmore Sonnets.
Patrick marked it as to-read
Aug 11, 2014
Chelsea Lonsdale
Chelsea Lonsdale marked it as to-read
Aug 06, 2014
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  • Field Guide
  • Meadowlands
  • Repair
  • Moy Sand and Gravel
  • Black Zodiac
  • Atlantis
  • Winter Stars
  • Say Uncle
  • Selected Poems
  • The Collected Poems
  • White Egrets
  • Crow (Faber Library)
  • Pity the Bathtub Its Forced Embrace of the Human Form
  • An Atlas of the Difficult World
  • Song
  • Words for Empty and Words for Full
  • Selected Poems and Four Plays
  • The Country Between Us
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 Death of a Naturalist North District and Circle

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