David Wright reviewing the first edition in the Times Educational Supplement wrote: 'The book begins with some autobiographical pieces written in prose that is a delight to read. These introduce the author and his locale - Belfast and the bogland farm where he grew up. There follow three lectures of major significance, centring on Wordsworth, Yeats and Hopkins, but actually an inquiry into the connection between the core of the poet's speaking voice and the core of his poetic voice, between his original accent and his discovered style.
The difference between craft and technique, the importance of the speaking voice, sense of place, origins, lines of communication with the past, are among Mr Heaney's persistent preoccupations: and what he has to say about them is of the greatest value and appositeness. I can't think of any contemporary critic who has written so illuminatingly about Wordsworth; or on Kavanagh . . . Or, come to that, on three leading English poets of our time, Ted Hughes, Geoffrey Hill, and Philip Larkin'.
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