Roy Foster at Princeton University Press:
When he first began to publish poems, Seamus Heaney’s chosen pseudonym was ‘Incertus’, meaning ‘not sure of himself’. Characteristically, this was a subtle irony. While he referred in later years to a ‘residual Incertus’ inside himself, his early prominence was based on a sure-footed sense of his own direction, an energetic ambition, and his own formidable poetic strengths. It was also based on a respect for his readers which won their trust. ‘Poetry’s special status among the literary arts’, he suggested in a celebrated lecture, ‘derives from the audience’s readiness to . . . credit the poet with a power to open unexpected and unedited communications between our nature and the nature of the reality we inhabit’. Like T. S. Eliot, a constant if oblique presence in his writing life, he prized gaining access to ‘the auditory imagination’ and what it opened up: ‘a feeling for syllable and rhythm, penetrating far below the levels of conscious thought and feeling, invigorating every word’. His readers felt they shared in this.