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This article is taken from PN Review 68, Volume 15 Number 6, July - August 1989.

Keep it in the Six Counties, Heaney! Andrew Waterman

"Ach, the man's a miracle. Surely to God, W.B. Yeats and Paddy Kavanagh and them boys never pulled in the crowds for poetry like Seamus. You seen all them Heaneyboppers swarming around as he stood there, brave and broad, giving out with it at the reading? And the Queen's University Bookshop the day The Haw Lantern was published, the battle of the Boyne had nothing on that, in the rush the staff were destroyed entirely. Barry McGuigan and Stephen Roche, the both of them together, haven't done more to put Ireland on the map. Heaney has the world clean beat. Here's to him!"

"Slainte, indeed! But the scenario you picture may be part of his problem. Awareness of an adulatory audience can refract a poet's imaginative vision, sleight it awry from true focus. Foster facile supererogatory composition: the hungry mouths look up, and they are fed."

"Aye, surely. Heaney's on all our school and university syllabuses, am I right or wrong?"

"Your surmise is correct. That is part of my point. Certain readers have adjudged The Haw Lantern a flawed, self-indulgent and unsuccessful collection of poetry, weakened precisely by its author's awareness of himself as a public figure, showing him over-eager to keep abreast with a gluttonous audience, and to explain himself to the fans. Substituting a poetry of facile cerebration, loose in expression, for his previous imaginative realizations of lived experience. No longer immersed in butter-churning, but just churning it out. May ...


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