The Riddle

This ingenious little poem (Helen Vendler judges it ‘exquisite’) enables Heaney to pull out of the hat the metaphor that describes the finely balanced challenges he faces in composing works of art – the handwork that produces the handiwork. The key to solving the riddle may well lie in the words of Vaclav Havel, Czech dissident turned President, whose optimism impressed Heaney: ‘Hope is a state of mind, not a state of the world … not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out because it is good’.  Heaney’s clever title says ‘think riddle think pun’: he juxtaposes difficult questions that require the poet’s personal responses and […]