Immanent Spirituality and Legitimacy of Poetry in Seamus Heaney’s ‘Squarings’

Lucie Kotesovska


In 1991, with the publication of his collection Seeing Things, Seamus Heaney confirmed that the focus and diction of his poetic practice have shifted. In my essay, I revisit the second part of this volume, the sequence titled ‘Squarings’, in order to examine what has inspired this profound transformation and what is being expressed as a result of this shift in Heaney’s aesthetic tectonics. Contrary to numerous critics who argued that the poet either left the earthly grounding of his earlier poetry or that he lost his faith, I am convinced that drafting the sequence, Heaney did not commit any act of detectable abandonment but much rather creatively reclaimed what had been his already.

Dealing with his complex and non-credal spirituality which has found a fascinating expression in the ‘shifting brilliancies’ of words and images in ‘Squarings’, I articulate my conviction that the transcendental element introduced (yet in many respects re-inhabited) in the sequence cannot be fully understood and reflectively incorporated unless the poem is read as a reflection of the threefold morphology of the self. In this structural interpretation of the individual human existence, the physical body is temporarily united and infused with spirit (forming the individual soul). The dynamic and unique juncture which is thus created is represented by the individual consciousness. It is this consciousness, re-emerging in the awareness of its potential and intuitively in touch with its immanent spirituality, which finds its expression and aesthetic terrain in ‘Squarings’. Further, it is this re-animated and synthesizing model of human consciousness which liberates the poet’s expression and signals the opening up of a new creative space which Heaney could finally enter without ‘guilt and anxiety characteristic of [his] previous works’.[1]

[1] Panzera, Daniela, ‘Heaney’s Journey into the Self: Towards a Dantean Light’, Nordic Irish Studies, 15.2 (2016), 12.


consciousness, douzain; memory; poetic sequence; spirituality

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