Heaney often reflected on the relationship between the freedoms of the creative imagination and the restrictions imposed by conditions on the ground, describing this tension as one ‘to which all artists are susceptible, just as the children of temperamentally opposed parents are susceptible. The child in this case is the poet, and the parents are Art and Life’. The broad trajectory of his oeuvre is evident enough: initially painting the life of his native world in ‘thick and faithful pigments’, his art became increasingly impressionistic and etherial as it climbed away from earthly matters (‘art’, writes Heaney in his essay ‘The Government of the Tongue’, ‘improvises an inspired sketch’ of ‘a better reality’), before returning to reappraise familiar ground in late volumes such as 'Electric Light'. Following the movement of birds as they migrate through this body of work is as good a way as any of tracking how the ‘appetites of gravity’ so characteristic of Heaney’s early writing were transformed into an imaginative mastery of ‘new rungs of the air’ (‘The First Flight’) in the transcendent impulse of middle-period work, before the birds come home to roost in late intimations of mortality.
|Title of host publication||The Life of Birds in Literature|
|Place of Publication||Trier|
|Publisher||Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier|
|Publication status||Published - Nov 2015|
- Seamus Heaney