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Field Work

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  738 ratings  ·  53 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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4.27  · 
Rating details
 ·  738 ratings  ·  53 reviews

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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
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

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.
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."
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.
Rachel Beeler
Jan 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: popsugar-2016
4.5 stars

PopSugar 2016: A book of poetry (x)
Zachary Taylor
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
Jun 22, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
three stars only against himself; “death of a naturalist” and “north” still deeper in my heart

sidenote: why am i not surprised that heaney managed to write the best love poem i’ve read in recent memory inspired by a skunk?

favorite lines—

“And as forgotten water in a well might shake / At an explosion under morning // Or a crack run up a gable, / She began to speak.”

“Get up from your blood on the floor.”

“How perilous is it to choose / not to love the life we’re shown?”

“So much comes and is gone /
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
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.
July C. B
2 estrellas.

La poesía no es lo mío, lo admito, y quizás por eso no pude conectar con este libro. Las imágenes que crea el autor se vuelven repetitivas y extrañas, tanto que algunas ni siquiera terminé de entenderlas. El año que viene quiero leer más poesía, pero seguramente no será otro libro de Seamus Heaney.
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.
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.
So beautiful. In my top 3 Seamus Heaney collections for sure. Especially love the sonnets.
Abhidev H M
Dec 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
" A father’s no shield
for his child —"
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.
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 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.
Jun 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Heaney makes you work. His poems are tight, as hard as iron, at times almost cold - he writes with an edge and a precision that cuts, that is almost mathematical, and that makes the tender moments almost more stunning. "How perilous is it to chose not to love the life we're shown?" he asks. And all his poems, in a way, are about that - about the unbearable consequences of loving a place. His poems are grounded in the history and the present of Ireland, and his love and grief for his homeland is ...more
Sep 02, 2013 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 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, 5-star
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 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 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 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.
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  • Field Guide
  • Collected Poems
  • Poems 1968-1998
  • Kid
  • Selected Poems
  • Belfast Confetti
  • Object Lessons: The Life of the Woman and the Poet in Our Time
  • Of Mutability
  • Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis
  • White Egrets
  • Dart
  • Magic City
  • Selected Poems
  • Houseboat Days
  • Selected Poems and Four Plays
  • Lawrence Booth's Book of Visions
  • The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems, 1974-1994
  • The Widening Spell of the Leaves
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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