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Echoes, Interferences and Rhythms: Disruption and Continuity in Seamus Heaney's Poetry

Franck Miroux, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle - Paris 3

In the forty years between the publication of his first book of poems, Death of a Naturalist (1966), and that of the latest collection, District and Circle (2006), Heaney has tried to develop an approach to writing and reading poetry which relies as much on the importance of the ear and of the tongue as on that of the eye and of the mind or, in other words, to clear up a space for a poetry that would restore a form of harmony between the strange and the familiar, the actual and the poetic, in a highly disruptive environment.
The aim of this paper is to asses to what extent his poetry strives to redefine an acoustic complex in which seemingly divergent elements can coexist and how it manages to expand the limits of traditional Irish and British soundscapes.
 Through a careful analysis of several key poems taken from the various collections, it will try to define the relationship between rhythmic patterns, echoes and images and the way the various visual and auditory elements of a poem collide and combine at the same time. In the end, the paper will endeavour to show how articulation can tune up disruptive elements and secure continuity as the poem reverberates into both the poet's and the reader's mind and imposes its cadence to the ear. 
It is a venture into virgin acoustic territories, at the frontier of writing, an experience which takes us to the very place where the rhythms and the echoes of the poem reverberate and which opens up new spaces and new perspectives as possibilities become infinite.


Miller, Miles D., Music and Tension, Psychoanalytic Review, 54:1 (1967), pp.141-156.
Moynihan, William T., The Auditory Correlative, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 17:1 (1958), pp. 93-102.


Heaney, Seamus, Poems Plain, Dublin: RTE, 25/09/1978.
---, Mossbawn, Preoccupations, London: Faber, 1980, pp. 17-27.
---, Feeling into Words, Preoccupations, London: Faber, 1980, pp. 41-60.
---, The Makings of a Music: Reflections on Wordsworth and Yeats, Preoccupations, London: Faber, 1980, pp. 61-78.
---, From Monaghan to the Grand Canal: the Poetry of Patrick Kavanagh, Preoccupations, London: Faber, 1980, pp. 115-130.
---, Osip and Nadezhda Mandelstam, The Government of the Tongue, London: Faber, 1988, pp. 71-90.
---, The Government of the Tongue, The Government of the Tongue, London: Faber, 1988, pp. 91-108.
---, Sounding Auden, The Government of the Tongue, London: Faber, 1988, pp. 109-128.
---, The Indefatigable Hoof-taps: Sylvia Plath, The Government of the Tongue, London: Faber, 1988, pp. 148-170.
---, Joy or Night: Last things in the Poetry of W. B. Yeats and Philip Larkin, The Redress of Poetry, London: Faber, 1995, pp. 146-163.
---, Counting to a Hundred: On Elizabeth Bishop, The Redress of Poetry, London: Faber, 1995, pp. 164-185.
---, Frontiers of Writing, The Redress of Poetry, London: Faber, 1995, pp. 186-203.
---, Seamus Heaney: Collected Poems, Dublin: RTE & Lannan, 2009, 15 CD box set.
Heaney, Seamus & Liam O'Flynn, The Poet and the Piper, Dublin: Claddagh Records, 2003.


The audio files can be downloaded from, bought or listened to on the following Websites:

Dorgan, Theo, Imprint, Dublin: RTE, 19/11/1994.
Kelly, John, The View Presents, Dublin: RTE, 18/04/2006.
Miller, Karl, Seamus Heaney in Conversation with Karl Miller, London: BTL, 2000, 112 pp.
Murphy, Mike, The Arts Show, Dublin: RTE, 13/04/1989.
O'Driscoll, Dennis, An Ear to the Line: An Interview, Poetry, 193:3 (2008), pp. 254-271.
O'Driscoll, Dennis, Seamus Heaney, Santa Fe (NM): Lannan Foundation, 01/10/2003.
O Dulaing, Donncha, Highways, Byways, Dublin: RTE, 09/10/1979.
Quinn, John, I Remember, I Remember, Dublin: RTE, 27/07/1981.


O'Donoghue, Bernard, Seamus Heaney and the Language of Poetry, London: Harvester, 1994
Osterhaus, Joe, The Belling in the Glen", Harvard Review, Spring 1996, pp. 131-135.
Perkins, David, Sounds of Seamus Heaney, Harvard Review, Spring 1996, pp. 63-69.
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