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Analyse how Seamus Heaney uses language to convey his childhood experiences to the reader in his poems

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Analyse how Seamus Heaney uses language to convey his childhood experiences to the reader in his poems "Death of a Naturalist" and "Blackberry Picking." Both poems are similar in their content as they are both written by Seamus Heaney about his childhood experiences. I also believe that both his experiences have a similar content. In "Death of a Naturalist" we find that the poem is about being out in fields collecting frogspawn. In "Blackberry Picking" the poet is speaking again about his childhood experiences in the fields. This time he is collecting blackberries. This is similar to "Death if a Naturalist" as it is in the wild at a young age enjoying nature. The titles are not so similar; "Death of a Naturalist" is a symbolic title. The title is not literal, no one actually dies in the poem. The death is of the way the poet feels about the frogs. In the first verse the poet feels for the frogs but in the second verse he almost fears them. "Blackberry Picking" on the other hand is not a symbolic title it is literal. In the poem the poet goes blackberry picking and this is explained in the title. Although the title could be considered symbolic also as perhaps the simplicity of the title portrays the simplicity and innocence of the child's mind. The mood between the two poems is also very similar. In "Death of a Naturalist" the mood changes between the two verses. In the first verse the poet enjoy going out and collecting frogspawn; he seems to be very excited and enthusiastic. ...read more.


In "Blackberry Picking" the metaphor seems to be more violent: " Summers blood was in it" gives us a violent image, as "blood" has many connotations to do with bad things such as death. It may be used perhaps to add to the pirate imagery or perhaps the poet uses it to make us think about death and the overall picture of a child's ideas dying or changing. But I think it is a more literal meaning and that the use of the word "blood" is used to visualise the rich red colour of the berry's juices. This still seems to be a lot less delicate than the metaphor used in "Death of a naturalist". In both poems the poet uses similes. In "Death of a Naturalist" the similes are used more often than second verse as the child's thoughts and feelings begin to change, which is a similar time to which they are used in "Blackberry Picking" which means that they are used in a similar manner. In "Death of a Naturalist" the poet uses the simile to create a more horrible impression of frogs. He writes, " Their loose necks pulsed like sails" This gives an impression of how the frogs looked. The word "pulsed" seems to be something you would associate with a beating heart. This perhaps leads me to think the poet is trying to create a more horrible image of the frogs. The verb pulsed also suggests how the necks were inflating and deflating which would also seem to be quite intimidating. ...read more.


He uses the word "cocked" which is a word used to describe the loading of a gun. I think that the poet uses this as the boy may feel that the frogs are ready to cause him harm just like a loaded rifle. Also "poised like mud grenades" suggest again how the frogs where ready to attack. I think that the simile suggests the colour and shape of the frogs creating a more vivid image. In "Blackberry Picking" the poet uses pirate imagery. He uses the words "hoarded" and "cache" which suggests that the blackberries were a treasure "cache" and were to be collected "hoarded". I thin the poet uses imagery for different effects. In "Death of a Naturalist" the poet wants to create a sense of his fear whereas in "Blackberry Picking" he uses pirate imagery to shoe his love for the fruit. I think that the poet writes both poems in a similar style. He writes both in free verse. Poets generally do this to tell a story, so this is probably why Heaney uses this style. This style also allows Heaney to create contrasting verses and include different from adult and child perspectives. In all I enjoyed both poems. They both had points I could relate with. But I preferred "Blackberry Picking" because I believe it had much more vivid imagery. This may be my opinion because it may be more vivid to me as I have experienced something similar. But I liked the way the poet conveyed to the reader, the texture and taste of the blackberries by using lines such as "Summers blood was in it." In all though I enjoyed Heaney's style of writing in both poems. ...read more.

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Response to the question

Response to the Question
I feel that this essay, although containing relevent points, lacks the clear focus and direction that is required. The title states that one must assess Heaney's use of language to 'convey his childhood experiences' yet ...

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Response to the question

Response to the Question
I feel that this essay, although containing relevent points, lacks the clear focus and direction that is required. The title states that one must assess Heaney's use of language to 'convey his childhood experiences' yet it is too general. For example this candidate compares and contrasts generic themes and motifs within both poems whilst vaguely examining poetic techniques. Instead, I would suggest being more selective and concise by focusing on Heaney's language and how this reflects his childhood experiences. Is he nostalgic? Was he fearful? Appreciative? Naive? All can be supported through critical analysis of language. In short, this essay does provide a relevent response to the given question; although a more focused and detailed answer would be expected to achieve above a C grade.

Level of analysis

Level of Analysis
It is evident that this candidate appreciates the prominent themes within the poetry of Seamus Heaney as they discuss his admiration for the natural word, and the way in which nature is amplified by childhood naivety. However, it is their level of analyis which requires the most significant improvement. Although relevent quotations are selected to emphasise a given point, it appears that they are stating the obvious all too often. For example, "Summers blood was in it" is an excellent choice as it describes the life imbued within the fruit and the power of his senses. However the candidate merely states the link between blood and death.

Yet, this candidate does analyse Heaney's language, all be it in a basic fashion. Literary techniques such as alliteration, imagery and onomatopoeia are all discussed appropriately. In short, the level of analysis is basic and does not provide substantial depth.

Quality of writing

Quality of Writing
The quality of writing is adequate with good spelling, grammar and sentence structure . However on a general note, the structure of the essay could be improved. I would advise expanding the introduction and conclusion, with a thesis or idea that you will support throughout. For example, 'Seamus Heaney uses language and poetic techniques to convey the emotional development and perspective of childhood effectively.' This would naturally create a more ordered essay, with each point providing evidence to support this view. Thus, this essay could be improved through increased depth of analyisis and a more structured order

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Reviewed by GarethEvans 23/03/2012

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