3 out of 5 stars

I have been recommended poetry by various people over the years and one name that keeps being mentioned is Seamus Heaney. Shamefully I had never read any of his at all. Thankfully my local library had a copy of Human Chain and unusually I had space on my card, so I grabbed a copy.

This the first of his collections that I have read and from what I can gather is the last collection that he was well enough to have full editorial control over. Just the title is quite chilling, as it made me think of the oppressed, but the context here is the people that helped carry him to get medical care after he had had a stroke. Heaney also concerns himself with the loss of friends and family as time grinds on. The prose is warm and nostalgic at times and then can feel disjointed and unsettling at other moments.

Everywhere plants

Flourish among the graves,

Sinking in their roots

In all the dynasties

Of the dead

I wasn’t totally sure what to expect with this collection and it was not the easiest read to be honest given that it is about those that are in the autumn of their lives. It is pretty melancholic reading, but there were the odd glittering lines in amongst the poems. I have also got a couple of his other collections to read, including Opened Ground.


Three Favourite Poems


The Wool Road


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