Books: Singing of Skunks and Saints

SWEENEY ASTRAY by Seamus Heaney; Farrar, Straus & Giroux; 96 pages; $13.95

A Dublin paper once decided that he was the "bard of the bogs." Robert Lowell took the high road, designating him the greatest Irish poet since Yeats. Seamus Heaney (pronounced Hay-knee) finds very little comfort in either encomium. "The first annoys me," he grumbles. "The second makes me uncomfortable."

That is as may be; both labels apply. Heaney is very much a product of Ireland's soil, an element he describes as "black butter/ Melting and opening underfoot." And in a land that...

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