In response to:
A Fine Way With the Language from the March 6, 1980 issue
To the Editors:
May I join what I suspect will be a chorus of indignation over A. Alvarez’s review of Field Work [NYR, March 6]. There are many things to be indignant about. First, there is the suggestion that Heaney is the current House Paddy because the English, traditionally, need an Irish star on their literary scene. This is simply not true. The English have always been hospitable to, and appreciative of, Irish writers. They treat them as they treat English writers. An Irishman could not wish for more. Secondly, there is the implication that the English prefer “safe” poets like Seamus Heaney and Philip Larkin to “experimental” poets such as Eliot and Robert Lowell. Surely the record shows that English critics have been appreciative of the work of both Eliot and Lowell. Alvarez’s admiration for Sylvia Plath is another matter. If he considers Heaney and Larkin “minor” poets is he asking us to consider Sylvia Plath as “major”? Lastly, the word “loaning” is as common in Ireland (Heaney’s country, after all) as is the word “baloney” in the United States. But then Alvarez probably doesn’t recognize baloney either.