It’s hard to know whether it will be the final published poem of the late, great Seamus Heaney – there may well be several verses ready to be pulled together for a posthumous collection or two – but a final Heaney poem was the way it was billed by the Guardian on Saturday.
Carol Ann Duffy, British poet laureate, has been compiling a collection for next year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of First World War, and all the cataclysm and seething literature it prompted.
Duffy asked several senior poets to make a response to poems, letters and diary entries from the time, and Heaney chose “As The Team’s Head Brass” by Edward Thomas.
The new poem “In a Field”, written two months before Heaney’s death, is described by Duffy as “heartbreakingly prescient”, offering – depending on the interpretation – a glimpse of paradise or one man’s final homeward journey.
If the century of The Great War makes some of us revisit the incredibly poignant and resonant writing of the time, then we’re all in for a reflective treat in 2014. We’ve had boom and we’ve had bust; we should now look forward to rebirth amidst reflections of the mores and values of ordinary heroes 100 years ago.