The Backward Look

A complex variant of Heaney’s ‘languagey’ poems, the piece explores linguistic impurities that have crept into the spoken word and adulterated the Irish language. The poet’s principle concern is linguistic dispossession. By use of a kind of Audenesque ‘verbal contraption’ he reflects on the wider erosion of the Irish domain. The landscape might have changed little but the language that describes it has suffered from crossbreeding. In his Backward Look, the poet measures the impact of repeated invasion and incursion. His message is carried by the emblematic Irish snipe. Heaney recognizes changes in the sounds and movement of the startled snipe, pretending all is well (sleight of wing) but under closer scrutiny showing signs of injury: A stagger in air […]