Authors Name: 
Eileen Howley
University: 
University College Dublin
Category: 
Literature
Award winner

Seamus Heaney’s Plateaus: Transitions between air, ground and underground, and the relationship between the local and the imaginative.

This essays focuses on the recurring motifs of transition between air, ground and underground in Heaney’s poetry and demonstrates how these transitions represent the poet’s concern with the relationship between the local communal realm and the realm of broader imaginative life. Heaney’s interpretation of the interconnection between these three strata (air, ground and underground) is central to an understanding of the interconnections between local life and a broader imaginative one. The move from his early, grounded poetry to lighter, more airy work in the later part of his career reflects his changing attitude to the local and to community. Use of Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizome theory is particularly fruitful in elucidating the non-hierarchical, connectedness of air, ground and underground in Heaney’s poetry. In applying this theory through close reading of key poems taken from across Heaney’s career, this essay demonstrates how the connected layers of air, ground and underground reflect Heaney’s varying, yet nevertheless important, attachment to the local in his creative, imaginative world.