Book: The Spirit Level

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The Spirit Level: Poems

Author: Seamus Heaney
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

The Spirit Level was the first book of poems Heaney published after winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995. Reviewing this book in The New York Times Book Review, Richard Tillinghast noted that Heaney “has been and is here for good…[His poems] will last. Anyone who reads poetry has reason to rejoice at living in the age when Seamus Heaney is writing.”


The title of Seamus Heaney’s first collection of poetry since winning the Nobel Prize in 1995 is the term used in Ireland for a carpenter’s level, an earthy physical allusion to matters of spirit that is quintessential Heaney. And indeed this volume deals masterfully with the finding of a level balancing point in ethical, moral, and spiritual affairs. Heaney has famously likened his craft to the farming activities of his childhood, comparing his pen to his father’s spade; here he extends that analogy, comparing the lines of a poem to furrows being plowed in the earth, and “the poem as ploughshare that turns time/ Up and over.” Heaney’s furrows are straight and clean, his loamy lines abundantly fertile.

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