Seamus Heaney's new collection starts "In an age of bare hands and cast iron" and ends as "The automatic lock / clunks shut" in the eerie new conditions of a menaced twenty-first century. In their haunted, almost visionary clarity, the poems assay the weight and worth of what has been held in the hand and in the memory. Images out of a childhood spent safe from the horrors of World War II – railway sleepers, a sledgehammer, the "heavyweight / Silence" of "Cattle out in rain" – are colored by a strongly contemporary sense that "Anything can happen," and other images from the dangerous present – a journey on the Underground, a melting glacier – are fraught with this same anxiety.
But District and Circle, which includes a number of prose poems and translations, offers resistance as the poet gathers his staying powers and stands his ground in the hiding places of love and excited language. In a sequence like "The Tollund Man in Springtime" and in several poems which "do the rounds of the district" – its known roads and rivers and trees, its familiar and unfamiliar ghosts – the gravity of memorial is transformed into the grace of recollection. With more relish and conviction than ever, Seamus Heaney maintains his trust in the obduracy of workaday realities and the mystery of everyday renewals.
District and Circle is the winner of the 2007 Poetry Now award and the 2006 T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry.
Nobel Prize For Literature, Nobel Prize in Literature
Praise for District and Circle
“Heaney's status as one of the most significant poets writing in English and the greatest Irish poet since Yeats in already well established. Electric Light is further confirmation of his power to capture and transcend the immediacy of the moment, to find the stillness at the heart of things.” —Joe Treasure, Los Angeles Times Book Review on Electric Light
“Electric Light includes poems that are sparks of fulminating retrospection . . . To say it the best I can . . . [Heaney] exercises poetry's power to proclaim truth and the artist's power to make us know that it is a truth we can't be without . . . Engagement is the heart of a poem . . . and Mr. Heaney's strongest engagement in this collection is with time: the past that lives, the present that dies.” —Richard Eder, The New York Times on Electric Light-
In the Press
Seamus Heaney's death last week left a rift in our lives, and in poetry, that won't easily be mended. A Nobel Laureate, a devoted husband, a sharp translator, a beloved friend, and the big-hearted leader of the "Government of the Tongue," Seamus was a poet of conscience... - FSG's Work in Progress