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This review is taken from PN Review 146, Volume 28 Number 6, July - August 2002.

DERRY PROSE SEAMUS HEANEY, Finders Keepers: Selected Prose 1971-2001 (Faber) £20.00

In his preface Seamus Heaney states: 'In the playground the phrase 'Finders Keepers' probably still expresses glee and stakes a claim', yet his title also keeps in mind the teasing rhyme, 'finders keepers, losers weepers'. For in order to find and keep something, it must first have been lost. If we are forever losing things, as Dennis O'Driscoll (to whom this book is dedicated) seems to suggest, in his essay 'Losers, Weepers' then Finders Keepers is about privileging the pleasures of recovery - in all senses of the word - through poetry.

Heaney's affirmation that 'poets themselves are finders and keepers, that their vocation is to look after art and life by being discoverers and custodians of the unlooked for', may seem rather Romantic, and some will disapprove, but it is also, and perhaps more importantly, self-referential, as his title surely plays on these lines from The Spirit Level (1996): 'finders, keepers, seers of fresh water/ in the beautiful round mouth of iron pumps/ and gushing taps.' In other words, the title Finders Keepers subtly returns us to an image of the pump as a symbol of 'the good of poetry'. It stands for artistic possibility, and its presence in the poet's imagination is a continual reminder that our lives are more liveable when we do not lose what inspires us. So, it seems quite deliberate that the autobiographical piece, 'Mossbawn', with its evocation of the pump: 'the plunger slugging up and down, omphalos, omphalos, omphalos' - ...


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