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Passage to the Center

Imagination and the Sacred in the Poetry of Seamus Heaney

Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney, author of nine collections of poetry and three volumes of influential essays, is regarded by many as the greatest Irish poet since Yeats.

Passage to the Center is the most comprehensive critical treatment to date on Heaney's poetry and the first to study Heaney's body of work up to Seeing Things and The Spirit Level. It is also the first to examine the poems from the perspective of religion, one of Heaney's guiding preoccupations.

According to Tobin, the growth of Heaney's poetry may be charted through the recurrent figure of "the center," a key image in the relationship that evolved over time between the poet and his inherited place, an evolution that involved the continual re-evaluation and re-vision of imaginative boundaries. In a way that previous studies have not, Tobin's work examines Heaney's poetry in the context of modernist and postmodernist concerns about the desacralizing of civilization and provides a challenging engagement with the work of a living master.

About the Author

In addition to Passage to the Center, Daniel Tobin is the author of nine books of poems, including From Nothing, winner of the Julia Ward Howe Award, The Stone in the Air, his suite of versions from the German of Paul Celan, and Blood Labors, named one of the Best Poetry Books of the Year for 2018 by the New York Times and The Washington Independent Review of Books. His poetry has won many awards, among them the Massachusetts Book Award and fellowships from the NEA and the Guggenheim Foundation. Other critical works include Awake in America, The Book of Irish American Poetry from the Eighteenth Century to the Present, To the Many: The Collected Early Works of Lola Ridge, and  On Serious Earth: Poetry and Transcendence. He teaches at Emerson College in Boston.

Reviews

"A valuable contribution to modern Irish literary scholarship. . . . Invigorating and commendable."—Modern Language Review

"A thorough analysis of Heaney's oeuvre to date, one that avoids the limitations of formalism and sectarian ideology."—Irish Studies Review

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