The padding here is predictable: radio talks and lectures about the Irish countryside; Belfast literary memories; a preliminary self-exegesis of Heaney's poems; reviews that stand up for the pastoral, for Mandelstam and Lowell and various poet-friends. But of more pertinence is a clutch of long essays which exposes the very crosspiece of Heaney's poetic stance. He sees poetry as broken basically into ""masculine"" and ""feminine"" traditions: the latter adopts ""a language. . . that tends to brood and breed, crop and cluster, with a texture of echo and implication, trawling the pool of the ear with a net of associations""; the former is ""fretted rather than fecund,"" with ""consonantal fire struck by idea off language."" And, as you can surely tell from these phrasings alone, Heaney himself is of the ""masculine"" camp--the consonantal, the alliterative, the ribbed, with Yeats and Hopkins claimed as forebears. True, a certain Irish chauvinism is implicit in Heaney's dichotomy (his patronizing of such English contemporary ""majors"" as Ted Hughes, Geoffrey Hill, and Philip Larkin is like a Camel smoker's disdain for a True). And the ruggedness of Heaney's language here, like that of his poetry, is perhaps more attractive the first go-round than it is the second. Still, all those attuned to Heaney's work will be keenly interested to discover that there's a well-fitted aesthetic view, a consistent (if seriously limited) intelligence, sitting behind the poems. Some welcome critical background material, then, in an otherwise undistinguished literary potpourri.