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Field Work

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  876 ratings  ·  63 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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Average rating 4.26  · 
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 ·  876 ratings  ·  63 reviews

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Paul E. Morph
Sep 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m still really enjoying my voyage through the collected works of Seamus Heaney. While this wasn’t my favourite collection (so far) it was a powerful, rewarding read with much to recommend it.

The Skunk

Up, black, striped and damasked like the chasuble,
At a funeral mass, the skunk’s tail
Paraded the skunk. Night after night
I expected her like a visitor.

The refrigerator whinnied into silence.
My desk light softened beyond the verandah.
Small oranges loomed in the orange tree.
I began to be tense as a
Aug 17, 2010 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
May 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dissertation-ing
Every time I read Heaney's poetry, I feel the need of reading each poem at least three times just to get the sentiment and then another time just because it is beautiful
Dec 31, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, ireland
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
Andrew Pitkin
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Reaffirms Seamus Heaney's status as one of the greatest modern English language poets. It is a shame he left us what seems far too early 6 years ago.

A gem.
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Finished: 14.03.2019
Genre: poetry
Rating: A+++
Poetry continues to happen as it should silence and solitude.
Enjoy one of the greatest Irish poets...Seamus Heaney.

My Thoughts

Jan 26, 2014 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."
Bonnye Reed
Jun 13, 2015 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.
Frances Sawaya
Oct 24, 2012 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 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.
Z. J. Pandolfino
Field Work is, indeed, work for the reader. Heaney is notoriously difficult at times, peppering his poems with words such as “inwit,” “crepuscular,” “sprezzatura,” and “empery.” His symbolism is multilayered, his metaphors are sometimes obscure, and his narrative voice is constantly in flux. Of course, because he is Seamus Heaney, the hard work pays off; Field Work is a beautiful book of verse composed by the Nobel laureate at the pinnacle of his poetic career, inspired by the four years he spen ...more
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
The Heaney kitemark is here in strength, a whole vocabulary of farming life, some curious rhymes hinting at a local accent, puzzlement when the countryside code giving right of way to herded cattle confronts an uncompromising convoy of armoured cars, or an innocent rural journey is tracked by a military helicopter. More elegies for lost friends than you might expect until you notice the manner of their deaths; 'The Troubles' continue and the poet, perfectly aware of the violence, remains stubbor ...more
Dec 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
For me, as an Irishman living abroad, I like to read Heaney on my return. Field Work brought me back to my roots-my childhood and a stimulating new adult experience- and he surely has an especial charm for the Hibernian. Yet, this work and others alike from the Nobel Laureate, deepen particularities and transcend them in a non-zero sum game. A wonderful antidote to a time of perceived rootlessness . This collection served as a fine accompaniment to Jonathan Sacks' book on globalisation-The Digni ...more
Dec 01, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
This was an interesting collection of poems. It starts off with the violence of Irish political conflicts haunting the waking dreams of the poet even when he retires from Belfast in disillusion. Slowly, Heaney reverts to the contemplation of nature and rural life that made Death of a Naturalist such a testament to his power to capture the vivid earthiness of the Irish countryside.

Heaney’s poems can rarely be read once and often require some further research on the apart of those not well versed
Saatwik Katiha
I dare not rate this book because one's perception of it (and the poetry of Seamus Heaney in general) depends on how familiar you're with his world. A litterateur friend of mine gasped at the mere suggestion of a casual reader such as myself embarking on this endeavour. If you're as unfamiliar as I am (I'm from India, with fairly little background information on Ireland and the Troubles), you'll have to spend hours literally researching each line to get the essence of what brilliance lies herein ...more
Annie Robb
Nov 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Although I didn't understand them all, the poems are beautiful. This is the kind of book that makes me wish I could study it with someone who knows this poetry to help me make sense of it.

I kept going back to the first poem in the book, Oysters. The images are strong and evoke feelings of sensuality, friendship, loss and memory. I also loved The Singer's House.
sami al-khalili
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Find Song. Read one. Read twice. Read thrice. Sit on a bench facing a lake. Pause to hear the birds. Read it for the fourth time. Turn on to the next poem. There's a reason why this is so good and its more than man-made flowers.
Allen Radtke
May 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Heaney's fifth volume of superb poems does not fail to please. A collection from 1979 it is a reflection of our time, a time containing cultural and political upheaval, and violence. His was a rare intelligence indeed, and one that is much missed.
Sep 07, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: own
Occasionally beautiful, largely nice, occasionally old-fashioned and even prim, and occasionally roiled by tricks (the "Still tongue-tied in the straw tied by your hand" kind) that seem to me to be clunky.
So beautiful. In my top 3 Seamus Heaney collections for sure. Especially love the sonnets.
Aug 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
I enjoyed Electric Light more.
Chris Cloake
Some good imagery. Make you think of different things and inspires varied emotions. Well communicated. Still prefer the classic poetry.
Abhidev H M
Dec 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
" A father’s no shield
for his child —"
Oct 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Glanmore Sonnets (VII & X)
The Otter
Robert Dean
You need so much context for these poems that they become inaccessible.
Jan 08, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
When Heaney is good, he is exceptional. When he’s not, he’s mighty boring.
Feb 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Some beautiful images (I loved "The Skunk") and some horrible images, which is the prerogative of poetry.
Mary Walsh
May 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Poems of which I enjoyed one of two
zara meadows
Jul 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
Some of his best in this.
Kathleen Waller
Mar 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The poetry has a lot of imagery and makes me think deeply about the world around me.
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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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