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This review is taken from PN Review 184, Volume 35 Number 2, November - December 2008.

LIFE IN THE NOBEL LANE RAND BRANDES and MICHAEL J. DURKAN, Seamus Heaney: A Bibliography, 1959-2003 (Faber) £50

'The supporters have invaded the pitch' was how Seamus Heaney summarised his hectic life in the aftermath of his 1995 Nobel Prize win, as he fielded the demands of correspondents, telephone callers, interviewers and well-wishers. If life in the Nobel lane is inordinately crowded, it cannot be said that Seamus Heaney was ever allowed much scope for reclusiveness - even when (in the 1970s) he retreated to the picturesque back lanes of rural Wicklow. The early listings in this fascinating bibliography, painstakingly assembled by Rand Brandes and Michael J. Durkan, serve as reminders of how quickly - indeed, long before the Swedish Academy's floodlights arced in his direction - the news of this exceptional poet's arrival spread like bog fire. Yet, even as his clamorous supporters milled about - autograph books, cameras, invitation cards and airline tickets to hand - Seamus Heaney somehow managed to produce poetry, criticism and translation of a consistently high order.

Some years ago, a detailed study by a 'time management' company found that, over a lifetime, the average American spent six months at traffic lights, eight months opening junk mail, one year searching for misplaced objects and five years queuing. How much of Seamus Heaney's life, one wonders - as the full bibliographical evidence of signed books, chapbooks, broadsides, cards and posters is unfolded by Brandes and Durkan - has been spent in repeatedly writing his name instead of his poems? It seems that no Heaney-connected event - whether the most worthy ...


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