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The Government of the Tongue: Selected Prose, 1978-1987
In his volume of critical essays The Government of the Tongue, Seamus Heaney scrutinizes the poetry of many masterful poets. Throughout the collection, Heaney's gifts as a wise and genial reader are exercised with characteristic exactness, and we are reminded, above all, of the essentially gratifying nature of poetry itself.
The 20th century saw the emergence of the poet as witnessvoicing solidarity with the doomed, the victimized, the dispossessed. Irish poet Heaney here gauges this trend in essays on Wilfred Owen, Osip Mandelstam, Zbigniew Herbert. He admits that the power of the poem to change the world is almost nil. Then, turning to T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, he affirms the healing value of poetry as its own vindicating force, restoring us to our true selves. Interrelated essays investigate the ways in which W. H. Auden, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath each became an ``antenna,'' getting beyond the ego to voice the spiritual yearnings and anxieties of our time. Heaney has a fine ear for Derek Walcott's lush Caribbean verse, which he calls ``a common resource,'' and for ``the wire-sculpture economy'' of Miroslaw Holub's games of knowledge. Beautifully written, these essays and reviews reconfirm poets as unacknowledged legislators of the world. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved