Om Seamus Heaney and the Adequacy of Poetry
Seamus Heaneys prose poetics return repeatedly to the adequacy of poetry, its ameliorative, restorative response to the violence of public historical life. It is a curiously equivocal ideal, and as such most clearly demonstrates the intellectual origins, the humanist character, and the inherent strains of these poetics, the work of one of the worlds leading poet-critics of the last thirty years. Seamus Heaney and the Adequacy of Poetry is the first studyof the development of Heaneys thought and its central theme. Eschewing the tendency of Heaney critics to endorse or expand on the poets poetics in largely adulatory terms, it draws on archival as well as print sources to trace the emerging dualistic shape, redemptive logic, and post-Christian nature ofHeaneys thought, from his undergraduate formation to the expansive affirmations of his late cultural poetics. Through a meticulous and wholly new examination of Heaneys revisions to previously published prose, it reveals the logical strain of his conceptual constructions, so that it becomes acutely apparent just how appropriate that ambivalent ideal adequacy is. This book takes seriously the post-Christian, frequently religious tenor of Heaneys language, explicating the character of histhought while exposing its limits: Heaneys belief in poetrys adequacy ultimately constitutes an Arnoldian substitute for--indeed, an afterimage of--Christian belief. This is the deep significance of the idea of adequacy to Heaneys thought: it allows us to identify precisely the late humanistcharacter and the limits of his troubled trust in poetry.