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This article is taken from PN Review 198, Volume 37 Number 4, February - March 2011.

Chain of Fools: on Seamus Heaney Jason Guriel
When I was invited to review Human Chain, the twelfth collection of poems by some Seamus or other, I was like, sure; I felt certain I'd heard of the author before. Nevertheless, to be safe, I consulted a learned expert, which is to say the Google homepage, and started typing. As soon as I reached the 'm' in the subject's given name, the mind of Google not only knew who I was after; it filled in the rest of his name. (It also supposed I might have an interest in 'seamonkey', 'seamus o'regan wedding', and the state of being 'seamless'.) A person's importance, we've come to learn, is a function of the minimum number of keystrokes it takes for an Internet search engine to have heard of him. Seamus Heaney comes to mind, the mind of Google, very quickly.

I'm kidding, of course; a person's importance is also a function of his celebrity. Heaney did the adaptation for an Angelina Jolie vehicle called Beowulf. He has received the odd prize, too. But he first acquired a name as long ago as the 1970s, for certain poems about nooks and crannies and digging up dirt on Ireland's natural history. In 'Bogland', 'The Tollund Man', 'Bog Queen', and others, Heaney, a kind of forensic anthropologist, pokes around the bogs of his country, stumbling upon prehistoric bodies and, worse, the template for CSI. (The speaker in 'The Glanmore Sonnets', from 1979's Field Work, calls himself an 'etymologist of roots and graftings'. But ...


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