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Field Work

4.28  ·  Rating Details ·  596 Ratings  ·  38 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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Aug 17, 2010 Bruce rated it really liked it
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
Dec 31, 2012 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ireland, 2013
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
Bonnye Reed
Jun 13, 2015 Bonnye Reed rated it it was amazing
XXX This is another old favorite of mine, ordered from Amazon with income tax refund this year. I had not realized Seamus Heaney had passed - so glad I was able to get a copy of this book. My library does not have it, any longer. He was a wonderful poet, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995. Several of his books are currently out of print, but if you run across them, give them a read. Most of us remember Beowulf, but he had many poems, lilting and running across the heart.
Jan 26, 2014 Drew rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
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."
Frances Sawaya
Oct 24, 2012 Frances Sawaya rated it it was amazing
Shelves: in-our-library
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."
May 18, 2009 Abby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, irish, favorites
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.
Rachel Beeler
Jan 14, 2016 Rachel Beeler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: popsugar-2016
4.5 stars

PopSugar 2016: A book of poetry (x)
Kathleen Waller
Mar 24, 2017 Kathleen Waller rated it it was amazing
The poetry has a lot of imagery and makes me think deeply about the world around me.
Andy Luke
I've appreciated Heaney more for reading this, but not much more. The most fixated upon poet of Northern Ireland underwhelms me. An indisputable eye for nature sure, yet he over-eggs and seems stuck in a role as editor for Farming Magazine. I did appreciate this. Too often Heaney in schools ends up putting the duller works in my lap: this gave me more range. There's real gems in this: the two 'In Memoriam' pieces, 'Elegy', 'Glanmore Sonnet VI' and the spectacular giant finale, 'Ugolino'. But no, ...more
Patrick Goff
Mar 07, 2017 Patrick Goff rated it really liked it
"[...] O neither these verses
Not my prudence, love, can heal your wounded stare."

When not meditating on the mythic beauty of nature, Heaney's heart-wrenching bouts of nostalgia will move even the most cynical and hard of heart.
Sep 02, 2013 Charlotte rated it liked it
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
Apr 26, 2012 Mark rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-star, 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?
Mar 12, 2012 Caitlin rated it liked it  ·  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.
Alyson Hagy
Oct 02, 2011 Alyson Hagy rated it really liked it
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.
G L Meisner
Nov 19, 2014 G L Meisner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
An excellent collection in which Heaney spend time thinking outside of his previous works but feels more human in many of the poems. He reflects on the dead and the history of his family and Ireland even looking to the fighting in Belfast for inspiration.

I found myself drawn into the poems in a way that many poets can't do. I couldn't get out of the book easily and had to remind myself to go to sleep. I think this is among Heaney's finest works.
Nov 11, 2013 Sean rated it liked it
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
Jan 21, 2010 Mia rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 24, 2007 Sarita rated it it was amazing
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...)
Jun 11, 2014 Helen rated it really liked it
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.
Oct 12, 2016 Robin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
It is so easy to mess up "nature" poetry, but Seamus Heaney is always skilled with his craft. These poems are inviting and beautiful, and some of them are absolutely devastating. I'm usually a little skeptical of rhyming poetry, or poems that rely strictly on meter, but Heaney of course is masterful at this and it only helps to add musicality and beauty to his elegies.
Mars Yuvarajan
Nov 05, 2016 Mars Yuvarajan rated it really liked it
A great book of Poetry. Seamus Heaney deftly captures the turmoil of the early 1900's conflicts in which he matured as a poet, and writes in startlingly impactful pieces the loss he felt at some of his colleagues and friends dying in the national and international conflicts occurring at the time. A fantastic read and highly worth adding to any poetry collection.
Mar 17, 2014 Jake rated it really liked it
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.
Michael Arnold
Dec 23, 2016 Michael Arnold rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
This is going to make me seem like Plebus Grandis, but I found this collection rather passable aside from the Dante-based poem about Ugolino. This is again just an initial reading, I'm going to be paying much more attention to this in just a little bit, but ... I don't know. I can't find much love for this one in this first read.
Apr 17, 2015 Kyrstin rated it really liked it
I love Seamus Heaney's poetry, but aside from a few poems, these aren't my favorite of his. His language is dense, something I had completely forgotten about, but so beautifully descriptive. Very enjoyable.
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.
Oct 13, 2011 Lucy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Megan Garvin
Aug 30, 2015 Megan Garvin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"you are stained, stained/ to perfection."
Ernestas Vascenka
2,5 stars
Sep 27, 2016 Adam rated it it was amazing
Highlights: Oysters, Triptych, Casualty, Glanmore Sonnets, An Afterwards, A Dream of Jealousy, Ugolino
Aug 26, 2012 Luca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Oysters, Glanmore Sonnets.
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  • Poems 1968-1998
  • Field Guide
  • Collected Poems
  • Kid
  • Belfast Confetti
  • Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis
  • Autumn Journal
  • Of Mutability
  • White Egrets
  • Lawrence Booth's Book of Visions
  • Black Zodiac
  • Magic City
  • Selected Poems and Four Plays
  • Outside History: Selected Poems, 1980-1990
  • Meadowlands
  • The Widening Spell of the Leaves
  • Radial Symmetry
  • Middle Earth: 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.
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