Joanna Cowper
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‘The places I go back to’
Familiarisation and estrangement in Seamus Heaney’s later poetry

Cycles of estrangement invariably follow those of familiarisation, as Seamus Heaney seeks to recapture something of the 'outsider's' perspective in order to revitalise the poetic energy that familiarity saps from the world around him. Heaney's most recent volumes, Electric Light and District and Circle, combine to present a complete cycle of organic familiarisation and estrangement. 'The Turnip Snedder' opens the collection in a Mossbawn location that will be familiar to readers of Heaney's earlier poetry. 'The Blackbird of Glanmore', in common with much of Heaney's later poetry of estrangement, draws together the qualities of surprise and obsession. Heaney's 'Sonnets from Hellas' look out not only onto a Greek landscape, but also onto Harvard and the Bellaghy GAA Club. In 'Real Names', Heaney maps a two-way process of assimilation between individuals and their histories, as Shakespeare's characters are taken on by a schoolboy cast.

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