“O My Pablo of Earthlife!”: Heaney’s Neruda and the Reality of the World
Does Seamus Heaney reject Pablo Neruda? That is the view of John Dennison, who argues that Heaney could not give full consent to Neruda’s “impure” poetry (Dennison 2015, 117). This essay seeks to challenge that interpretation. It does so by showing the poet’s engagement with Neruda’s “Towards an Impure Poetry” and contextualising the late poem, “To Pablo Neruda in Tamlaghtduff”, not only in the framework of its host volume, District and Circle, but in Heaney’s oeuvre. Tracing Heaney’s interrogations of the ontological status of phenomena the world beyond the self as a constituent part of the inner state of the writer, I suggest that he recognises the value of Neruda’s materialism earlier than he truly acts upon it. Selected poems illustrate the redevelopment of this materialism which culminates in the implacable naturalism of District and Circle. I also offer parallels between Heaney’s and Neruda’s understanding of death, similarities that provide further grounds upon which to see how the aging Derry man embraced the Chilean’s morally persuasive vision.