Electric Light

Electric Light

by Seamus Heaney

Paperback(First Edition)

View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Tuesday, February 25
20 New & Used Starting at $1.99


The powerful collection by the bestselling translator of Beowulf

In the finland of perch, the fenland of alder, on air

That is water, on carpets of Bann stream, on hold

In the everything flows and steady go of the world.

—from "Perch"

Seamus Heaney's collection travels widely in time and space, visiting the sites of the classical world and revisiting the poet's childhood: rural electrification and the light of ancient evenings are reconciled within the orbit of a single lifetime. This is a book about origins (not least, the origins of words) and oracles: the places where things start from, the ground of understanding — whether in Arcadia or Anahorish, the sanctuary at Epidaurus or the Bann valley in County Derry.

Electric Light ranges from short takes to conversation poems. The pre-Socratic wisdom that everything flows is held in tension with the elegizing of friends and fellow poets. These gifts of recollection renew the poet's calling to assign things their proper names; once again Heaney can be heard exting his word hoard and roll call in this, his eleventh collection.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780374528416
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 04/03/2002
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 112
Sales rank: 1,173,557
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.27(d)

About the Author

Seamus Heaney (1939-2013) received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995. His poems, plays, translations, and essays include Opened Ground, Electric Light, Beowulf, The Spirit Level, District and Circle, and Finders Keepers. Robert Lowell praised Heaney as the "most important Irish poet since Yeats."

Read an Excerpt

At Toomebridge

Where the flat water
Came pouring over the weir out of Lough Neagh

As if it had reached an edge of the flat earth

And fallen shining to the continuous

Present of the Bann.

Where the checkpoint used to be.
Where the rebel boy was hanged 'in '98.

Where negative ions in the open air

Are poetry to me. As once before

The slime and silver of the fattened eel.


Perch on their water-perch hung in the dear Bann River
Near the day bank in alder-dapple and waver,

Perch we called "grunts," little flood-slubs, runty and ready,
I saw and I see in the river's glorified body

That is passable through, but they're bluntly holding the pass,
Under the water-roof, over the bottom, adoze,

Guzzling the current, against it, all muscle and slur
In the finland of perch, the fenland of alder, on air

That is water, on carpets of Bann stream, on hold
In the everything flows and steady go of the world.


They stood. And stood for something. Just by standing.
In waiting. Unavailable. But there

For sure. Sure and unbending.

Rose-fingered dawn's and navy midnight's flower.

Seed packets to begin with, pink and azure,
Sifting lightness and small jittery promise:

Lupin spires, erotics of the future,

Lip-brush of the blue and earth's deep purchase.

O pastel turrets, pods and tapering stalks
That stood their ground for all our summer wending

And even when they blanched would never balk.

And none of this surpassed our understanding.

Out of the Bag


All of us came in Doctor Kerlin's bag.
He'd arrive with it, disappear to the room

And by the time he'd reappear to wash

Those nosy, rosy, big, soft hands of his
In the scullery basin, its lined insides

(The colour of a spaniel's inside lug)

Were empty for all to see, the trap-sprung mouth
Unsnibbed and gaping wide. Then like a hypnotist

Unwinding us, he'd wind the instruments

Back into their lining, tie the cloth
Like an apron round itself,

Darken the door and leave

With the bag in his hand, a plump ark by the keel . . .
Until the next time came and in he'd come

In his fur-lined collar that was also spaniel-coloured

And go stooping up to the room again, a whiff
Of disinfectant, a Dutch interior gleam

Of waistcoat satin and highlights on the forceps.

Getting the water ready, that was next —
Not plumping hot, and not lukewarm, but soft,

Sud-luscious, saved for him from the rain-butt

And savoured by him afterwards, all thanks
Denied as he towelled hard and fast,

Then held his arms out suddenly behind him

To be squired and silk-lined into the camel coat
At which point he once turned his eyes upon me,

Hyperborean, beyond-the-north-wind blue,

Two peepholes to the locked room I saw into
Every time his name was mentioned, skimmed

Milk and ice, swabbed porcelain, the white

And chill of tiles, steel hooks, chrome surgery tools
And blood dreeps in the sawdust where it thickened

At the foot of each cold wall. And overhead

The little, pendent, teat-hued infant parts
Strung neatly from a line up near the ceiling —

A toe, a foot and shin, an arm, a cock

A bit like the rosebud in his buttonhole.

Copyright © 2001 Seamus Heaney

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Electric Light 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Daedalus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
So my adding to the praise he receives matters little in the face of him already winning the Nobel'n all, but holy crap he's so good. He's the best ender I've ever read. Period.
Guest More than 1 year ago
the latest collection of poetry from seamus heaney isn't his best work. in fact, if you aren't familiar with his work you'd do better starting with opened ground. there is a pensive tone throughout the collection, and the entire second half is written for recently dead poets. when you read this you can see why he won the nobel, but i'd wait to read this after you've gone through his selected poems.