Human Chain, By Seamus Heaney

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Fans of Seamus Heaney will find plenty to admire in this, his 12th collection of poetry. There are the usual precise observations of the natural world: "The glum grey pocks/ White dandelion milk/ Would mark your skin with as it dried." The childhood memories, present and active in the man: "Ghost-footing what was then the terra firma/ Of hallway linoleum, grandfather now appears..."

Perhaps the best poem is "A Herbal", a homage to Guillevic's "Herbier de Bretagne", in which Heaney meditates on the varieties of plants growing in graveyards – grasses, nettles, bracken, broom, blackberries – and their significances. "If you know a bit/ About the universe/ It's because you've taken it in/ Like that/ Looked as hard/ As you look into yourself/ Into the rat hole/ Through the vetch and dock that mantled it."

There is the lightly worn erudition: "Route 110" maps the arc of a life on to the underworld section of Virgil's Aeneid; "Hermit Songs" revisits the heroes of Gaelic legend. There are the tender, reverent memories of family: "Album" is a meditation on old photos of his parents, seeing them anew through an adult's eye. The poetic voice is quiet and contemplative – perhaps a bit lacking in fireworks. But that is what admirers of Heaney love.

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