David Wheatley at The Guardian:
The atmosphere of grief and reverence that followed the death of Seamus Heaney was punctured recently when an Irish newspaper carried a spirited attack on his reputation by Kevin Kiely. For Kiely, Heaney was a peddler of nostalgia who owed his success to sponsorship by Faber and Faber, impressionable Americans and timid academics. As criticism, Kiely’s tirade was nugatory, but it did serve one useful purpose, offering a reminder that the words of the dead are modified in the guts of the living, as Auden said, that strange things can happen to the reputations of recently dead writers. The 20th century is full of poets whose reputations have collapsed posthumously like circus tents in a strong breeze: Vachel Lindsay, Archibald MacLeish, Edith Sitwell, Cecil Day-Lewis. Poets go out of fashion and come back (HD), suffer a temporary down-grading when the biography comes out (Philip Larkin), or get relaunched in new and unexpected forms (the “Radical Larkin” of John Osborne’s anti-revisionist critique).
The publication of Heaney’s New Selected Poems 1988–2013, and reprinting ofNew Selected 1966–1987, therefore marks an opportune moment for reassessment as well as celebration.