Staying True To One’s Roots

Reviewing a collection of interviews with Seamus Heaney called Stepping Stones, Barra Ó Seaghdha focuses on how the famed poet invokes his humble beginnings:

The depth and length of Heaney’s engagement with the matter of childhood suggests that what is involved goes far beyond nostalgia: we are dealing with the kind of imaginative loyalty that underpins a whole life. Regardless of where he is living at the time or what creative phase he is in, Heaney persists in working and reworking the material given him by birth and inheritance. We might recall the lines from “The Badgers” in Field Work:

How perilous is it to choose
not to love the life we’re shown?

We are dealing not just with a poet’s loyalty to his own imaginative world, but with human loyalty too: it is as though Heaney could not bear to live with himself if his life-journey away from home involved any posture of superiority or condescension.