London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1969. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is an exceptional first edition, first printing of Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney’s, Door into the Dark, signed by the poet. Heaney signed “Seamus Heaney” in black ink on the title page directly below his printed name, which he struck through with his pen. Condition is fine in a near fine dust jacket. The binding is tight and clean with sharp corners and bright spine gilt. The contents are clean and bright with no previous ownership marks. The sole hint of spotting is confined to the top edge of the text block, the fore and bottom edges clean. The dust jacket is unclipped, retaining the original lower front flap price, and bright, with no soiling to the red and green print. We note only fractional hints of loss to the corners and hinge extremities and light soiling. The dust jacket is protected beneath a clear, removable, archival cover.
Door into the Dark is Heaney’s second, full-length poetry collection, welding lyrical exactitude to everyday labor. The poet’s subject is difficult. Labor, really physical labor, is usually what interrupts leisure, detracts from thoughtful engagement with the world, therefore, for a lesser writer, labor often feels antithetical to art. But Heaney, in the rhythms of a thatcher, a forger, and briar cutter, finds the stuff of great poetry, which, we so often forget, is as much a gesture of the body as it is the mind. Heaney writes in his poem “The Forge", “The anvil must be somewhere in the centre, | Horned as a unicorn, at one end square, | Set there immoveable: an altar | Where he expands himself in shape and music."
Of the title Heaney said “…I thought of ‘the dark”… as a conventionally positive element, related to what Eliot called ‘the dark embryo’ in which poetry originates. The phrase ‘door into the dark’ comes from the first line of a poem about a blacksmith, a shape maker, standing in the door of a forge; and as a title, it picks up on the last line of Death of a Naturalist [Heaney’s preceding, first published book of poetry], where the neophyte sees a continuity between the effect he wants to achieve in his writing and the noise he made when he used to shout down a well shaft ‘to set the darkness echoing’. There’s also the usual old archetype of the dark as something you need to traverse in order to arrive at some kind of reliable light or sight of reality. The dark night of the soul. The dark wood...” (Stepping Stones, p.95)
Seamus Justin Heaney (1939-2013) was the first of nine children born to a farmer and raised in rural County Derry “in suspension between the archaic and the modern.” At Queens University Belfast, Heaney evolved into a poet. In 1965 Heaney was a member of a group of young Belfast poets known as “The Group”. The 1966 publication of Heaney’s first book, Death of a Naturalist, brought critical acclaim. The next half century saw him publish a dozen poetry collections, as well as prose, plays, and numerous translations. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995.
Reference: Brandes & Durkan A5a. Item #006325