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Electric Light: Poems

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  512 ratings  ·  46 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
Hardcover, 98 pages
Published April 8th 2001 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 2001)
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Average rating 3.94  · 
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 ·  512 ratings  ·  46 reviews

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Late in the Day . . .

Red, White, and Blue

1. Red

What I loved about that much-snapped scarlet coat
Was the hunting-jacket look of the fitted waist
And tailored shoulder, the nifty, tricksy bounce
Of hemline hitting off your knee behind
And your knee in front.
‘She’s like a wee pony!’
Butter wouldn’t melt in that smiler’s mouth
So I smiled straight back, as who should say, ‘Good God,
You know you’re absolutely right.
I love the go and gladsomeness in her,
Something unbroken, her gift for pure dismay
Andrew Howdle
Oct 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A volume that demonstrates Heaney's craft and ability to tell a story in a poem and unearth the richness of language.
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 quotat
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:
Aug 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One reading does not do justice to this slim volume. There is much here that would repay further reading, many references and details to clarify in the text for this reader. But what is evident on first reading is the craft and beauty and dexterity of the language.
Tyler Jones
That thrill of unbalance as you are caught in a delicious moment of time; one foot on the dock
and one foot in the dinghy. Such are the poems of this self described Vitruvian; one foot in Hellas and the other in Gaeltracht.
Reveling in the internal shift.
Dec 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, library, 2018
Seamus Heaney has no equal.

Here, an excerpt from his poem "Audenesque":

Worshipped language can't undo
Damage time has done to you:
Even your peremptory trust
In words alone here bites the dust.

Dust-cakes still -- see Gilgamesh --
Feed the dead. So be their guest.
Do again what Auden said
Good poets do: bite, break their bread.

He is a dense poet, one I don't even pretend I can truly grasp the whole of. Still, I read, and will doubtless read again, and again, and again. There's so much to delve into, s
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.
Jan 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
were we not made for summer, shade and coolness
and gazing through an open door at sunlight?
for paradise lost? is that what i was taught?

first poetry collection of year and what a solid start. heaney's "station island" was among my best books of last year (considering the amount of his collections i pick by year, it was statistically probable) and although "electric light" doesn't quite left the same impression (nor similar to my impressions on "death of naturalist," my favourite by heaney so f
Sep 19, 2018 rated it liked it
This collection was evenly uneven. The first 2/3 (aside from the first poem which I enjoyed) was so seeped in ancient myth and form that aside from admiring the craft there was little to get excited about. The first 2/3 of poems were seeped in reference and allusion, much of it far too inaccessible.
However, in that final 1/3, when the poems became more grounded and Heaney began eulogizing other poet friends such as Joseph Brodsky and Ted Hughes, the collection really grabbed a hold of me and I
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Full disclaimer: I read this to be a quick read, and also I’m not one for poetry.

This collection of poetry was worse than other poetry I’ve read. It’s from the author who translated Beowulf, and it’s filled with Gaelic words, and moments he shared with people from his lifetime. I guess the book is the poetic version of an autobiography so to say, but BOY is it just not really good. Maybe someone who knows more about Ireland, and this authors life, or even just classical works (which were also i
Marshall A Lewis
This was not my kind of poetry; it was full of literary references I didn’t get and words that I was unfamiliar with. With poetry that uses the odd word or reference, and tends to draw me in regardless, I’m willing to put the work into understanding the poems, but with this collection I was overwhelmed with the amount of information I needed to already have to understand the poems, and therefore uninterested and therefore, unimpressed. Upon reading other reviews of this book, it seems that other ...more
Rich Farrell
Jul 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
I’m a Heaney fan, but this isn’t my favorite collection of his. From what I understand, this was published shortly after his Beowulf translation (which is amazing!) and the poems that stand out are the poems that reference that myth. There are great lines scattered and some solid stanzas, but few poems were memorable for me.
J Grimsey
Jun 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Seamus Heaney is I feel an exceptional Poet. I also feel that due to his poems need to understand Latin Literature, Irish History and many other subjects I am not up to reading him properly. I felt the same about T S Elliott except his practical Cats. I'm certainly not up to writing this review. Ho Hum
Jul 03, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
And the poet draws from his word-hoard a weird tale
Of a life and a love balked, which I reword here
Remembering earth-tremors once on Dartmoor,
The power station wailing in its pit
Under the heath, as if our night walk led
Not to the promised tor but underground

To sullen halls where encumbered sleepers groaned.
Rachel Atakpa
Dec 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
read when at the countryside of the british isles.

filled to the brim with classical references which makes it difficult to get through at times. nostalgic and enchanting language construct poignant and vivid images. very pretty to read.
Sean Meagher
This is definitely the most difficult Heaney collection I have read thus far. There were so many historical and mythological references that I eventually had to give up looking them up. Still overall worthwhile with some great poems near the end particularly.
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.
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Even there are some very fine poems and sequences of poems here, it feels a bit padded and motley, a bit too inward and addressed to itself, in places. But the good ones are wonderful.
Rachael Hobson
Mar 20, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
1.5 stars

Appreciates the use of imagery, but this isn’t to my taste.
Jan 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I struggled with some of the referents and allusions the first time through. Four stars for now. I'm reading it again.

I've finished my second reading. I looked up some unfamiliar words, and I got a better sense of the referents and allusions. Yet I hesitate to give this collection five stars. But I will give it four & one-half stars.
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
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
Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
This collection by Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney is quite worth the investment in time. Heaney has a supreme gift of word choice, arranging words in ways that you, the reader, did not know was workable. Additionally, he is a master of both form and meaning. His poems contain no waste, each word chosen carefully and no word superfluous. This collection ranges from ancient themes to his childhood Irish landscapes. My favorite lines are from Part III of “Out of this Bag”:

“I wanted nothing more than
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
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
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
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.
Matthew Metzdorf
Jul 13, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
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
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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.

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