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Drawing examples from a range of poems discuss Heaney's treatment of what he has called History, Memory and Attachemetns.

Extracts from this essay...

Introduction

MEGAN MCCLUSKIE ADVANCED HIGHER ENGLISH DRAWING EXAMPLES FROM A RANGE OF POEMS DISCUSS HEANEY'S TREATMENT OF WHAT HE HAS CALLED "HISTORY, MEMORY AND ATTACHMENTS." The Irish poet Seamus Heaney has written many poems focusing on the history of Ireland and his own personal memories. In these poems Heaney looks closely at the problem of sectarianism and violence in Ireland during 'Digging' is one of Heaney's poems, written at a time when his poetry was more concerned with the personal - his relationships to his family and the rural world in which he was born. In the poem Heaney memorialises the cycles of manual labour on his family's farm - digging up potatoes and cutting turf on the bog. On one level this seems hardly the material that might engage a poet, but in celebrating the familial and the local, Heaney is drawing attention to the significance of ordinary people on the land as well as attempting to find his place in the world and the very nature of this relationship to that world. Thus, I believe that It is fair to say that this poem clearly demonstrates Heaney's treatment of what he has called "history, memory and attachments. 'Digging' is centrally concerned with the alienation felt by Heaney and the need to negotiate the distance between origins and the present circumstances.

Middle

This is exactly what the speaker has in mind when he says that he will 'dig with it'. The choice of words are of great importance in poetry as they create connotations that set up a subtext to a poem, an underlying set of meanings or metaphorical relations. This is often achieved through setting up new correspondences between words, often incongruous. In the second line the adjective 'squat' is connected to pen. 'Squat' has the duel meanings of bending the body closer to the ground and to settle a piece of land, usually without permission. In this second sense the word suggests that the pen is out of place in this environment. The Heaneyr's father has a spade in his hand which is more fitting to life on a farm while his son has a pen. It is this very incongruity that makes the speaker feel alienated in his old home. He is no longer part of the tradition of the land, but has acquired the more leisurely status of writer, and it is this very dilemma that he is exploring in the poem. The physical action of squatting also has more to do with his father than him - bending his back out in the fields - than the son who sits comfortably observing others work. This difference also echoes throughout the poem, showing how the son's art - his pen - has caused this distance between them.

Conclusion

The Bog poems ('Punishment', 'The Tollund Man'), based on the bodies recovered in the peat of Jutland, are concerned with ancient sacrificial killings that Heaney compares to the contemporary situation in Ireland, and the other major area of his work explores the religious prohibitions on sex that are the cause of children being killed or hidden away ('Limbo' and 'Bye Child') so that the female is not judged by society. 'Casualty' explores the question of the aftermath of the Bloody Sunday killings (January 1972). The central figure presented in the poem is Louis O'Neill, a Catholic fisherman who was a neighbour and acquiantance of Heaney. O'Neill was 'blown to bits' in an IRA pub bombing, carried out in reprisal for Bloody Sunday. Heaney's poems range from the more personal poems about his upbringing and the significance of the ordinary life on the land ('Digging'), to those that explore the social injustices, and violent history of his country. The sectarian violence takes centre place in his work and he sometimes addresses specific revenge killings ('Casualty', 'The Strand at Lough Beg'). The Bog poems ('Punishment', 'The Tollund Man'), based on the bodies recovered in the peat of Jutland, are concerned with ancient sacrificial killings that Heaney compares to the contemporary situation in Ireland, and the other major area of his work explores the religious prohibitions on sex that are the cause of children being killed or hidden away ('Limbo' and 'Bye Child') so that the female is not judged by society.

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