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Seeing Things: Poems

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  574 ratings  ·  47 reviews
Seeing Things (1991), as Edward Hirsch wrote in The New York Times Book Review, "is a book of thresholds and crossings, of losses balanced by marvels, of casting and gathering and the hushed, contrary air between water and sky, earth and heaven." Along with translations from the Aeneid and the Inferno, this book offers several poems about Heaney's late father.
Paperback, 128 pages
Published April 1st 1993 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1991)
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Average rating 4.12  · 
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K.D. Absolutely
Oct 19, 2011 rated it it was ok
Recommended to K.D. by: Nobel Prize for Literature
Shelves: poetry, nobel
Seamus Heaney (born April 13, 1939) received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995, four years after the publication of this book, Seeing Things. The Nobel committee described his works as “those of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past.” He was a poetry professor at both Harvard and Oxford and was named one of “Britain’s Top 300 Intellectuals” by The Observer.

Seeing Things is his ninth collection of poems and it draws inspiration from the visions
Samir Rawas Sarayji
I enjoyed this collection but no where as much as some of his others. They were mostly pastoral poems, which were heavy-handed with their jargon. I found myself looking in the dictionary one-time too many to really grasp the nuances or embrace any poetic effect. Maybe second-time round...
Jun 15, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I doubt there’s anyone who would pair poets Seamus Heaney and John Ashbery together. One seems earthy, fairly straightforward, full of traditional poetic fireworks, the other a clown in French fashion. But after reading this collection I’ve come to the conclusion they are two of a kind. For lack of having any compelling metaphysics they resort to coy strategies, in the case of Ashbery, or a kind of embarrassing New Age philosophy, in the case of Heaney. They are two symptoms of the confused, ...more
Dec 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Seamus Heaney makes simple remembrances into poetry that takes you from the Earth to the stars. These poems work like science fiction to let your mind transcend an Earth-bound viewpoint, yet the images keep you anchored to the Earth. Some of the poems also bring the ancient past into the present and invoke a sense of timelessness. This is a thrilling book.
Dec 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Seamus Heaney had a gift for poetry, especially when concerning his relationship with his father, but the excerpt from The Crossing is what really made this a five-star review. Absolutely incredible.
May 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is Heaney at his finest. It's very much a collection, not just a collection of poems, united by the theme of what you could call 'transcendence'. In a couple of the poems Heaney contrasts the transcendence he desires with that of Yeats, the great evaded predecessor, and freeing the body from the soul.

Heaney's version is embodied: rooted in sensation, memory, childhood and his father - who as elsewhere in Heaney's work is represents a kind of authenticity. The Squarings poems are the
Sep 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
You know those inexplicably beautiful moments in life that catch you offguard --when it feels like the universe is telling you some kind of secret through an image or motion so simple you never stopped to look at it? Seamus Heaney knows those moments too. He knows lots of them, and you will feel like you are his kindred spirit as you read his poems and see the things he sees. I'm getting a little choked up here . . . excuse me. .
Aug 29, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: own, poetry
I have never been a huge fan of Heaney. Although I've always loved his translations, his poems leave me confused and wanting more of a foothold in sentence structure less abstract. I know this is not a common sentiment in grad school, but I like reading poems that are less work and more reward. I do love the snippet of an Inferno translation he gives at the end.
Oct 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
In Seeing Things, Heaney describes his experiences growing up on a farm. However, he does not try to recreate those moments as he originally experienced them; rather, he writes from the perspective of an adult remembering those experiences. Thus, in addition to telling both of his past childhood and present maturity, Heaney employs these poems to explore the theme of memory (in which regard it may be that with the title "Seeing Things" Heaney means to allude to his mind playing tricks on him; my ...more
Apr 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
This is possibly the most accessible collection yet from Heaney; it is my favourite so far (out of eight, reading in order of publication).

The book opens with a few pages of translation from the Aeneid, and closes with some pages translated from Dante's Inferno; in each case, a demonstration of what Heaney can achieve and perhaps an enticement to do more in that way. Many of the other poems are visibly disciplined to fit a formal structure in one way or another, with generally delightful
Jun 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Seamus Heaney verses rhyme and remain free at the same time!
Apr 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Highlights: Markings, Seeing Things, An August Night, Glanmore Revisited, Fosterling, Squarings.
Jun 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Again . . . Beautiful
Strider Jones
Aug 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
I am reading this book of poetry for the third time. Heaney's poetry rewards patience. The metaphors and symbolism connect the past and present and elsewhere in language that is both earthy and from a higher plaine of thought used to reveal the secrets in everyday situations. Heaney doesn't play to the highest common denominator for popularity, or play it safe by selling his soul to powerful causes. He is his own man, letting you in in his own language, simple but complex and always with that ...more
Jul 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books of poetry I know
Oct 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
really really beautiful.
Lex Poot
playing hopscotch through his memories
Michael Arnold
Dec 21, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Some poems here I really like, some I can't say I care for/understand. I will be returning to this collection one day soon - this is just an initial reading.
Sep 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Oof. It kills me that Heaney worked on translating the Aeneid for 50 years, more, if he started as a schoolboy. He opens this book with the Golden Bough – it’s so good, it practically glows:

The Golden Bough
(from The Aeneid, VI, l. 98-148)

So from the back of her shrine the Sibyl of Cumae
Chanted fearful equivocal words and made the cave echo
With sayings where clear truths and mysteries
Were inextricably twined. Apollo turned and twisted
His spurs at her breast, gave her her head, then reined in her
Aug 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
I like how Heaney mixes feelings about death and memory. His images are very clear and his lines are lovely. At times I felt the titles were hard to understand. I couldn't connect with every poem, but there were many that I thought would teach me something about poetry if I read it a few times, studying the lines and the sounds of the lines. I think Heaney would have been an excellent professor to have. I heard him speak once in Buffalo and was mesmerized by him. His poems have that same aura, ...more
Jun 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Don’t like nature poets. The post-Thoreau tend to be casually nihilistic about science and humanity, however much beauty and innocence they display.

But Heaney’s a naturalist, not a nature poet. He talks about the same few things – stone, dirt, the nature of light for a child, the act of building, wind – hundreds of times and still casts newness. It hurts to read for some reason – he’s never miserable, and rarely handles even abstract tragedy explicitly, but I get tight behind my eyes.
Lise Pomerleau
Feb 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I'm so glad I discovered this poet, through Eternal Echoes, by John O'Donohue. His poetry is so lyrical, so readable, and relatable. It speaks to realities I understand: playing marbles (Squarings), The Sound of Rain, The Pitchfork. I thought of my childhood, my parents, my grandparents. Such sympathy and depth of feeling. I will buy and treasure this book.
J.S. Watts
Mar 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was especially impressed by the slightly more experimental "Squarings".
Feb 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Beautiful writing, but I couldn't get my head around some of the themes.
Sep 23, 2013 rated it liked it
Seeing Things is the first book of Heaney poems I've read. I suspect I will have to reread it. This grouping of poems left me in a mixed state of mind. How can they feel so ethereal, and yet as weighed down as a large pair of boots caked thick with mud? I had to go online to read some of the reviews of this work to understand that it references Aeneas and his desire to see his dead father. And the poems where he speaks of his father are very moving. Many of the poems have the unmistakable mark ...more
Apr 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Heaney combines succinct, vivid, grounded descriptions of things in this world (like his description of a pitchfork, page 25) with a touch into something which is beyond. Sometimes it is through memory of his father, which visits him like a shade. Or by taking the example of the “offing” (the visible sea at a distance from the shore) and playing out the sense of what’s beyond that, sometimes in the offing but mostly just beyond. Here’s a stanza from the book that seems to tell me about Heaney’s ...more
Danny Daley
Nov 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
I'm a huge fan of Heaney's work. It very well could be that I read this book while experiencing a rare case of reader's fatigue, but this was really the first collection of his that did not resonate with me much at all. Heaney has always been a bit inaccessible for anyone not familiar with the vernacular of the rural life, but in this collection I found him making attempts to put introspective words to items and ideas that simply fell flat. I enjoyed a few of the poems that reminisce, but ...more
Karen Douglass
Nov 25, 2013 rated it liked it
I read this because our Boulder poetry book club had selected it. My initial response was confused; the poems are not entirely accessible, but by the end of the discussion last week I found that I had understood more than I thought. All agreed that Heaney's language is beautiful. As with most real poetry, these pieces invite a second or third reading to begin to appreciate them.
Isaac Timm
Oct 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, 2015
Incredibly dense, flying over head far to often. Times like this makes a miss a classroom full of my peers, if I could have discussed this with better minds I could have found more understanding. Heaney is a master of the image, they just jump from the page like a paper cut-outs. I'm not worthy.
Michael Mingo
Aug 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Heaney's poetry is often frustrating upon the first read, but after careful consideration the parallels and imagery shines through the elliptical syntax. By the time I got to "A Basket of Chestnuts" and "The Biretta," I think I finally latched onto Heaney's voice.
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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.