Robert Pinsky Poetry and the World.
The Ecco Press, 193 pages, $19.95

Seamus Heaney The Government of the Tongue: Selected Prose 1978-1987.
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 170 pages, $17.95

These two collections of critical essays are by writers whose principal work is poetry. Robert Pinsky, who was born in 1940 in Long Branch, New Jersey, has written three full-length books of verse. Seamus Heaney, who was born in 1939 in County Deny, Ireland, has written eight. As one might expect, nearly all of the pieces in these two volumes are devoted to poetry. Heaney’s subjects include the verse of W. H. Auden, Philip Larkin, Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, and Osip Mandelstam; Pinsky offers essays on William Carlos Williams, Elizabeth Bishop, Marianne Moore, George Oppen, and Seamus Heaney. Pinsky’s book also contains a few memoir-essays, which, like those in Preoccupations (1980), Seamus...

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