Free Ploughshares, Round Six: Seamus Heaney

We’ve really enjoyed all of the great comments we’ve been receiving through this contest, and this week we’re excited to offer yet another fantastic back issue of Ploughshares to a lucky winner. It’s the all-poetry Spring 1984 issue guest edited by the Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney, and featuring work by Marilyn Hacker, Rita Dove, and many more.

Complete with a view of our lovely office in the background.

For a chance to win, simply comment below explaining why you love Seamus Heaney or any of the contributors featured in this issue. We’ll read through the comments and our managing editor, Andrea Drygas, will choose the winning commenter by noon tomorrow. All we ask from you is a review of the issue within thirty days of receiving it, which we’ll publish online in honor of our fortieth anniversary. Details can be found here.


If you’re interested in hearing about this weekly contest, make sure to fan us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, subscribe to our blog feed, or add us on Tumblr.

Happy reading!

UPDATE: I’ve made my selection, and so this posting is now CLOSED. We’ll be doing this every week, so there will be plenty more chances for free issues. Stay tuned!

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About Rhian Sasseen

Rhian Sasseen is a rising senior and English Language & Literature major at Smith College in Northampton, MA. She is a summer editorial intern at Ploughshares.
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8 Responses to Free Ploughshares, Round Six: Seamus Heaney

  1. Andrew Keating says:

    Seamus Heaney is like the grandpa every child dreams of having. Maybe I say this because a few generations back, my whole family is Irish and I want to be able to tie myself to a man who once wrote “Be advised my passport’s green/No glass of ours was ever raised/to toast the Queen.” But Heaney is a wonderful storyteller in his poetry. It has been a long time since I was an avid reader of poetry, though Heaney has made the shortlist of poets whose books still sit atop my desk (Eliot and Auden alongside). I remember my first encounter with Heaney – which was probably not unlike anyone else’s – when I read his translation of Beowulf. What was perhaps most remarkable was the gap between the Old English and modern English, though the roots were clearly still in the ground when I would glance from the left page (original text) to the right page (modern translation).

  2. Andrew Keating says:

    I guess I should also come back to my “grandpa” statement. The grandpas we love are the ones who have storied pasts, that they passionately tell at any opportunity they are given. I imagine that Seamus Heaney would be leaning over the children’s table at family gatherings, feeding their imaginations with wonderful mysticism and well-crafted stories that may or may not be entirely true.

  3. Angela Spires says:

    This thing I love most about Seamus Heaney is that he has such diversity as a poet and a person. Not only are his poems amazing and emotional, but his quotes are powerful and witty as well. From “Even if the hopes you started out with are dashed, hope has to be maintained” to “”I credit poetry for making this space-walk possible” Heaney is so multifaceted that he cannot be placed into a single category of a mere poet. His translation of “Beowulf” is my favorite by far of all the versions I have read. His quotes are funny and inspiring. His poetry is though provoking and entertaining. It is sad, but filled with hope.
    “Twice Shy,” one of my favorite pieces by Heaney, is so filled with description and hidden meanings that I feel that every time I read it, I find something new, something different. I think it is a true talent that can create a piece of work, that every time you read it, you come out with someone thing old and something new. Something treasured, and something to yet be explored. So, chary and excited,
    As a thrush linked on a hawk,
    We thrilled to the March twilight
    With nervous childish talk:
    Still waters running deep
    Along the embankment walk”
    There is not a time that I don’t read these lines that I do not want to be there to experience this poem as it makes me feel. Even with the wonder that his poetry creates, it is just a single piece to a much more complex and interesting person underneath.

  4. Leslie says:

    Seamus Heaney! I had the extreme pleasure of meeting him when he came to my college when I was an undergraduate. I’d studied some of his poems in an English class already, so I knew how big a deal it was to have Heaney at our small, liberal arts school. I found his poetry different from the classic British poetry emphasized in my college, yet I could still see connections. For me, Heaney was so accessible and yet so layered, so intricate.

    My favorite part of his visit was the English-department sponsored pig pickin’ (a pig roast, for non Southerners). I still can’t believe it sometimes. I met Seamus Heaney. At a pig pickin’! And yet I cannot recall what I said to him when I met him.

  5. Bhavin says:

    Heaney’s writing taught me a lot about poetry, and probably more about my approaches to it than anything else. “North” was the first era of his poetry that I came across, and it blew my mind by showing how simple, clear, and concise poetry could be. The poems almost resurrect the land and the bog people right before your eyes. And then moving forwards and backwards in his career, it’s hard for me to imagine that the same poet who wrote those also wrote things like “Blackberry Picking” at one end of his spectrum, through “North” and comes out with poems like “Clearances.”

    Having said all of that, I think his prose might have had an even larger effect on me as a budding writer who never wrote himself into poetry. Heaney’s writings taught me how to do that.

  6. Joel Ferdon says:

    Morri Creech always talked fondly of Seamus Heaney, and it led to my individual study of his work. An old, second hand copy of “Poems 1965-1975″ is never far from my grasp. Heaney taught me about life, death and nature as not only a poet, but as an individual in general. His lineation and diction, it is like dancing through the poem, or taking a bob sled ride on a stick of butter straight to a golden eclipse. Yes, I could happily pull line after a line from his poems, but I will only quote one that rings especially true with me: “On lonely journeys I think of it all,/ Birth of death, exhumation for burial.” These words still give me chills, and when my niece almost died as an infant last year, they gave me strength. Also, you can see a direct line of decent from Heaney to Kerouac; one lover of nature to another. So, in short, Heaney provided the world with solace on many different levels and dealing with many different subjects, and for me, it is all about the understanding that life needs an interpreter, and what better way but through words.

  7. Sarah Berry says:

    My love for Heaney’s poetry began when I read “Blackberry-Picking” in high school, and it has only grown since then. I’d like to second Bhavin’s comment about his essays; his writings about poetry convinced me to study poetry in graduate school. I don’t think I could possibly choose a favorite poem, but I think I can pick a favorite volume: Seeing Things (although his most recent volume, Human Chain, is a close second). In the title poem in particular, images such as “deep, still, seeable-down-into water” and stone that is “alive with what’s invisible” are evocative and memorable. He doesn’t just look through clear air or clear water, appreciating its clarity; he apprehends clarity itself. I remember being stunned the first time I read the poem. The more I return to this poem, the more rich and evocative each section seems to be. Although I enjoy the images and insights in his earlier, earthier poems, it is these more ethereal and luminous later poems that I really love. To me, this turn toward the miraculous and marvelous, as he describes it in his Nobel Prize address “Crediting Poetry,” is what makes his poetry truly memorable and enduring.

  8. Joseph Geskey says:

    What I love most about Seamus Heaney is the richness of his vocabulary and the homage he pays to simple but honorable activities like farming one’s land. Like many I suppose, I was mesmerized by one of his early poems, “Digging” and how he genuflects on the generations that plied their hands in the soil and he decides to use his hands to continue the cycle of rebirth and renewal in a different manner–”Between my finger and my thumb/The squat pen rests./I’ll dig with it.” Years later, “Fosterling”, where he writes, “I can’t remember not ever having known/the immanent hydraulics of a land/of glar and glit and floods at dailigone/My silting hope. My lowlands of the mind, who knew the almost impossible consonants “gl” could sing with such possibility and creativity. And finally, in his book, “District Circle”, where he writes, “This is the turnip cycle”/as is dropped its raw sliced mess,/bucketful by glistering bucketful.” Once again the consonants”gl”, the mess, the land, the seemingly banal, uninspired landscape, farmed for reverence and worth. Reminds me that nothing is not a source for renewal if one looks, or “digs” hard enough.