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Electric Light: Poems

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  401 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
A powerful new collection by the bestselling translator of Beowulf.

In the finland of perch, the fenland of alder, on air

That is water, on carpets of Bann stream, on hold
In the everything flows and steady go of the world.
--from "Perch"

Seamus Heaney's new collection travels widely in time and space, visiting the sites of the classical world and revisiting the poet's childhoo
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Hardcover
Published April 8th 2001 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 2001)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Brian Robbins
Heaney is the master craftsman among contemporary poets. Meaning & form always complement each other, in a single organic growth. Moving from word to word, phrase to phrase, you catch different facets and shades, like walking through a wood in sunshine. OK, so I am a Heaney enthusiast, and the most constructive thing I could say about his poems is GO AND READ THEM instead of blathering on like this.

But I’ve got to say a little more, even if it’s only to hint at some of his riches through qu
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Abby
Sep 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
We lost a great one when we lost Seamus Heaney. A very strong collection here. He needs no introduction and doesn’t give his readers any either. I’ve always loved a poet like this, the one who assumes that his or her readers know everything; Latin, Italian, farm terms, the complexion of the Irish countryside, all of Virgil, the mystical language of Roman Catholics, the way Ballynahinch Lake looks in the morning.

Also gleaned from this book:

Words That Seamus Heaney Uses That No One Else Uses:
ado
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Cheri
Aug 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I picked up this collection after encountering one of Heaney's poems that made me want to read more. I had to work hard (pondering and googling) to "get" most of the poems in this book, which I am willing to do, but in the end, I found I had an intellectual appreciation of the poetry but was not drawn to it on a visceral level.
Daniel Simmons
Nov 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I always appreciate dips into Heaney's dazzling word-hoard.
Amanda Patchin
Jun 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
I never feel quite competent to judge the merit of poetry. Worthwhile reading, but I'm not sure I really understood much.
Alex Telander
After last year’s bestselling success of Beowulf: A New Verse Translation, renowned author Seamus Heaney now brings us his latest collection of poetry, entitled Electric Light. The collection is split into two sections: a) sweeping poetry, starting off in Heaney’s homeland of Ireland, and then traveling all over the world, from Belgrade to Greece, and b) moving poetry dedicated to those who have passed away like Ted Hughes and Joseph Brodsky. Offering fresh language, as well as plenty of his own ...more
Mark
Jan 10, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mark by: Sara Q
Shelves: poems-poetry
The simple story is this wasn't really for me. Maybe a different Heaney work?

Why is that? I don't really have the language for an answer at this point. But I'll jot a few things down. Now these things should not influence anyone else as they may not apply to you. And they may in the future change for me.

Too many words I had no idea how to pronounce, and often what they meant. Gaelic, primarily.

Too many allusions and other references to Shakespeare and other bits of ancient high culture. Not exac
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Safitri
Oct 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
There is an exquisite poem that has the high school drama production as a setting. There is another for those who find comfort in books.

From 'The Bookcase':

Heavy as the gate I hung on once
As it swung its arc through air round to the hedge-back,
The bookcase turns on a druggy hinge, its load
Divulging into a future perfect tense

Where we hang loose, ruminating and repeating
The three words, 'books from Ireland', to each other,
Quoting for pleasure the Venerable Bede
Who writes in his History of the En
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Andrew
Oct 06, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm philosophically interested in this book, and poetically I guess. I feel like I need to read it again, and then read all of Heaney's other poetry before I can say to much about it. I love the poem "Lupins"; and I'm partial to another poem in here about playing soccer, which is a loose analogy for writing poetry - what else. I've been interested in the way that the task of writing poetry, and thinking about writing poetry has taken over the writing of poetry. Most contemporary poetry is about ...more
Steven
May 01, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, irish
Although full of great words and earthy imagery, didn't resonate with me as much as his other books. Guess I prefer his grounded work; many of these poems are built from classical (Greek and Latin) forms and content—or are reminiscences of moments with friends that stay too private, don't reach enough towards the universal to be accessible. I do love his use of compound nouns. And his work on Beowulf shows up in a few poems, both as content and in form. Glad I read it in the bookstore instead of ...more
LemontreeLime
Jul 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Good, but I felt like I was an outsider looking in at his very specific memories. This was definitely a collection of snapshots documenting his experiences, flash bulbs rather than electric light perhaps? I did like one section of the poem 'Sonnets from Hellas' where he says '...I woke to the world there like Telemachos, Young again in the whitewashed light of morning that flashed on the ceiling like an early warning from myself to be more myself in the mast-bending Marine breeze, to key the und ...more
Matthew Metzdorf
A difficult collection of poetry. Way too esoteric for me, written in languages I don't know and using allusions and referents I don't understand. Feels as though written for himself and his friends with whom he has shared a common language and a common existence. Not for me. Still a talent, may have to search elsewhere to find something of his I like
Yaritza
Not a book for me at all. I was lost in each verse. Nothing made sense to me. Some words were in another language with words that didn't give me a picture of what the author was getting at. I know it is very difficult to write in this form so I thank him for writing these poems just which I was able to figure them out.
Pierre
Oct 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Heaney is a master craftsman and a linguistic joy to read. This is an excellent collection that takes us from the dusty shores of the ancient world to Heaney's childhood to his admiration for fellow poets in his adult life, never failing to remind us of life's humours, it's hardships, it's origins and it's transience.
Vishvapani
Feb 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
An uneven collection by Heaney's standards, but well worth reading. I most enjoyed the narrative pieces, simple recollections, and the tributes to his contemporaries in the final section. The title poem strikes me as one of Heaney's finest.
Andrea
Nov 11, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Oh, Seamus. What can I say? He chronicles "the must and drift of talk".
Stephen
Jan 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, 2016-reads
Solid symbolism. Imaginative imagery. Palatable poetry.
Marty
Feb 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
I love his simplest, sparest poems best ("Perch"), though I also delight in his complex love of language, even when he sends me off to look up words like "boreen." (Wait, what does that mean again?)
Bess
It is very good for me.
Mark
Feb 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When he avoids classical references his poetry is uniquely earthy and powerful.
Stefanie
Nov 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
It might have been a five-star if I had gotten all of the allusions and what not. I'm not a big reader of poetry, but you can't go wrong with Heaney.
Lee Regan
Mar 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We went to a Stonehill College program to hear Seamus Heaney read and talk about his poetry. Inspirational and amazing.
Matt Hunt
Far too clever for me to get much from it. The writing is beautiful, but so complex I was spending so long working it out that the poems didn't really get a chance.
matthew davis
a fair try by heaney, not his best but it does pass the time...
Brendan
Mar 04, 2012 rated it liked it
There are a handful of good poems here, but on the whole this collection is among Heaney's weakest and least original.
Amy
Apr 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An amazing classical, modern poet. Needs to be read in tandem with Virgil.
Noel Howley
rated it it was amazing
May 12, 2013
Sarah
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Feb 21, 2011
Patrick
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Kernard
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Mar 17, 2015
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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...

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