Eason Exclusive: Choosing 100 Poems by Catherine Heaney
We’re delighted to welcome Seamus Heaney’s daughter Catherine to the Eason blog to tell us more about ‘100 Poems’, a new selection of his poetry which includes his most loved and celebrated poems.
Choosing 100 Poems
On 28th June, Faber will publish 100 Poems, a new selection of my father Seamus Heaney’s most celebrated work. This will be the first single volume to cover all twelve of his original collections of poetry, and the task of choosing the poems fell to my family – my mother, two brothers and me. While one hundred poems might sound like a lot, it was surprisingly difficult for us to whittle down our choices – each of us had different personal attachments to particular poems, although (thankfully!) we agreed on the vast majority.
In his lifetime, Dad had talked about putting together a small selection of his work from across the decades, so the idea wasn’t an entirely new one; but with the launch of the National Library of Ireland’s ‘Listen Now Again’ exhibition (opening 6th July), the time felt right for us to revisit it. I worked with Faber’s poetry editor on steering the book through the publishing process, and had the privilege of writing a foreword on behalf the family.
My hope is that this volume – focused in content, yet broad in scope – will serve as an introduction for people who haven’t read much of my father’s poetry before, or who are unsure about where to start. It includes favourites such as ‘Digging’, ‘Mid-Term Break’, ‘Blackberry-Picking’ and Clearances 3 (‘When all the others were away at Mass’), which in 2015 was voted Ireland’s best-loved poem of the past 100 years. For long-time readers, the book plots a course through my father’s life, times and work: from the early portrayals of the people and places of his native rural Derry, through the turbulent years of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and blossoming into the mature voice and mastery of his later work.
Finally, for anyone who ever heard Dad read, I hope these poems will conjure up that inimitable and much-loved voice once more and – to quote the last line of ‘Postscript’ – “catch the heart off guard and blow it open”.
More about ‘100 Poems’
Seamus Heaney had the idea to form a personal selection of poems from across the entire arc of his writing life, small yet comprehensive enough to serve as an introduction for all comers. He never managed to do this himself, and no other edition exists which has such a broad range, drawing from first to last of his prize-winning collections. But now, finally, the project has been returned to, resulting in an intimate gathering of poems chosen and introduced by the Heaney family. In 100 Poems, readers will enjoy the most loved and celebrated poems, as well as discovering new favourites. It is a singular and welcoming anthology, reaching out far and wide, now and for years to come.