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Opened Ground is the greatest introduction that any reader of contemporary Irish poetry should endeavour to obtain. Heaney demonstrates an ability to find a very suttle voice from the fragments of a dis-membered 'Northern' Irish Catholic community. It is hard not to see him as the likely heir to the crown left by W.B Yeats in the earlier part of this century. As a poet 'Heaney' is at best human and at worst selfless, there is no great ideological metaphysical boundaries to fight, as you may find in Hughes. His work is economic, has much verve and written with a quelled passion.
In making a comment, in the seventies, regarding the 'Troubles', he followed on from the Yeats tradition in declaring that he would not become a voicepiece for a generation but a social observer. This is where the 'poet' becomes post-modern, in as much as he feels that we should not separate literature or more commonly social literature from the edifice that is social science. This is not a claim by the poet himself but one that I feel describes a writer who writes about conflicts within his own social and mental sphere on such an interior level.
The earlier pieces of work 'The Death of A Naturalist' (1966) is by far one of the greatest openings of the last 40years. It contains the classic elements of humour, realism and sorrow. A brave writer is one that is prepared to write about himself, and in this he should not show any self-obssession but achieve a hook on which others can hold and Hweaney is an exampler of this. I would pick out Digging, Death of a Naturalist, Blackberry Picking and Mid-term Break as showing such a personal manifesto of his work. On re-examining Digging one will find that Heaney has trapped the reader's mind on so many levels, from genrational, political and mentally.
Although I would agree with the opinion that he can become oblique and at times one can get tied up in the 'actuals' of his later longer pieces I would look towards 'Field Work' (1979), where we find Heaney the success. An acclaimed writer, a university lecturer a voice of the world (in being known rather than politician). It is very reflective, like his earlier work, and in the 'Killing' and 'Toome Road', I feel that the troubles are narrated in layman's terms.
I would ask all to be patient to Heaney's work and think and read very carefully what is written. This will allow you to accept the voice of a man born in a bi-partisan rural area of the 'six-counties' during the 1930's.