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  • Print publication year: 2021
  • Online publication date: March 2021

Chapter 5 - Wordsworth and Romanticism

from II - Influences and Traditions


Seamus Heaney’s poetry and criticism kept up a regular conversation with Romantic and post-Romantic poetics: from Wordsworth to Hopkins, Frost, Plath and more. He initially found in Frost’s relation to the natural, ‘a primal reach into the physical’. This he developed into a poetic which balanced the need for roots in an account of the formation of the poet’s self, and the need for an individual voice which found responsibility in ‘an unconceding pursuit of poetic insight and poetic knowledge’. The route was via watery places, and an approach to the autobiographical grounded in Wordsworth, which was figured through the making and unmaking of gender. If Heaney’s later poetry was to trade this rootedness in for a sort of transcendence – ‘walking on air’ – he still remained preoccupied with its forging in imitation, its duty to communicate, and its desire for its own autonomy.

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