AS and A Level: Seamus Heaney essays
Meet the team of inpirational teachers who mark our essays
Seamus Heaney's biography
- 1 He is a Northern Irish poet and playwright. He was born in 1939.
- 2 He is the eldest of nine children and was brought up on a farm.
- 3 His childhood provides material for a great deal of his poetry.
- 4 The Troubles (ie: the conflict in Northern Ireland) are also alluded to in his poetry.
- 5 He won the Nobel Prize for Literature and his books account for two thirds of sales of living poets in the UK.
Heaney's ideas and expression
- 1 A lot of Heaney's poems are autobiographical and he draws upon the experiences of his childhood.
- 2 He describes the local surroundings in his poems and the natural world. Heaney often uses specialist farming lexis to give his poems greater authenticity.
- 3 Mid-Term Break describes the death of his four year old brother and The Barn shows how terrified he was of the dark barn with its weapon like tools.
- 4 An important theme is his father and the respect and admiration he has for him this can be seen in both the Follower and Digging.
- 5 He uses descriptive imagery and evokes the senses. Although he uses free verse at times the power of Heaney’s poetry lies in rhythm created by alliteration, enjambment and repetition.
Top tips for writing essays on poetry
- 1 Embed quotations to show understanding and knowledge of poems.
- 2 Refer to the essay question in conclusion, introduction and topic sentences.
- 3 Use poetry terminology to show understanding of the techniques Seamus used in creating the poem.
- 4 Avoid describing the content - analyse the poem.
- 5 When comparing and contrasting two or more poems use the language of comparison and similarly discuss the similarities and differences of the poems.
47 AS and A Level Seamus Heaney essays
- Peer Reviewed essays 5
Follower is a poem written by the renowned poet Seamus Heaney. The poem relates back to Heaneys past memories which he had experienced when he was at a younger age.4 star(s)
He would set the wing and fit the bright steel - pointed sock'. For a substantial amount of the poem, Heaney devotes his time to praising his father. Through this entire appraisal, the young Heaney becomes more attached to his father, making their relationship stronger. The father is, more than anything else, a skilled and energetic farmer. He is the source of admiration for Heaney for which he praises him in a physical and metaphorical standpoint. In the physical standpoint, his father's strength and fortitude are described effectively by the use of a simile.
- Length: 727 words
Then Kinsella's dreams are shattered, as a kind of axe breaks the bond between these two trees. As this axe shatters the tree it also shatters the dreams of Kinsella: "A wooden stroke: Iron sinks in the gasping core. I will dream it again." Wormwood was one of Kinsella's poems which he wrote during the twentieth century, but was it all about the bonding of a tree, and how in was destroyed bitterly by an axe?
- Length: 830 words
Explore how Heaney writes about childhood experiences in Death of a Naturalist and in one other poem of your choice. In your Response you should include discussion of the following:4 star(s)
There is also a sense of exploration in which is consistent with the idea of learning inevitable leading to discovery and troubled awareness of experience. In the second section everything changes and the world is now a threatenting place, full of ugliness and meance. There is still a strong emphasis on decay and putrefaction, but now its not balanced by images suggesting profusion of life. Similar to the Death of a Naturalist, Blackberry picking begins with the description of the season.
- Length: 763 words
But in the second stanza it changes, the tone of the stanza is less happy; it is serious and uses many negative phrases 'Then one hot day when fields were rank' (line 22) 'Right down the dam gross - bellied frogs were cocked' (line 27) And also fearful is the tone 'I knew that if I dipped my hand the spwan would clutch it' (line33) He shows he now no longer likes nature 'I sickened, turned and ran' (line31) that is the change.
- Length: 1306 words
Analyse how Seamus Heaney uses language to convey his childhood experiences to the reader in his poems3 star(s)
Whereas in the second verse he sees the frogs in a different way. He does not enjoy collecting the frogspawn any more. He seems to be afraid and almost disgusted by the frogs. He describes them as "the great slime kings" which perhaps shows that he is revolted by the frogs where once he was comfortable with them. Also in "Blackberry Picking" the poet's attitude changes between the verses. In the first verse the poet is enthusiastic and goes about picking blackberries with childlike enthusiasm.
- Length: 2781 words
Yet Heaney goes on to write, "I caress The heaving province..." this juxtaposition of the sexual act provides a stark contrast and forces us to stop and revaluate exactly why we are reading the poem. Topography is also used in the poem to give a female persona to Ireland, "Your back is a firm line of eastern coast" and also the power England holds over Ireland, "I am the tall kingdom" Towards the end of the 1st stanza Heaney writes, "Conquest is a lie."
- Length: 905 words
Describe the qualities in the young Beowulf and later in Wiglaf, that make them stand out as warrior heroes
of the earth' when in battle with Grendel and his use of the sword ' so huge and heavy of itself only Beowulf could wield it in battle' during his combat with Grendel's mother. Such repetition of course was a key feature in the oral tradition of Anglo-Saxon poetry to establish their important attitudes and values, and Heaney has ensured this is maintained in his translation. We cannot however, award the young warrior heroic status merely as a result of his overwhelming brute strength, both by modern standards and more importantly those of the Anglo-Saxons, there were numerous other qualities required to fulfil this role.
- Length: 1166 words
'From our study in the "Clearances" collection, what is revealed about Seamus Heaney and his relationship with his mother, and his thoughts and feelings about other members of his family'
The fact that Heaney remembers this visit to his grandparents so vividly is also an indication of how important his mother and her family background was to him, as he shows a keep interest in all aspects of the visit. Despite this, the true reveal of the close bond shared by both mother and son is seen most apparent in sonnet 3, whereby Heaney describes the activities shared between them on times where it was just the two of them alone.
- Length: 1915 words
see that it is coming from 'their back window', which instantly reminds us that the young person is not a member of the family, and that his pain and suffering is one that he shares with no one but himself. The light is a significant feature in the poem as the boy strives to go into the light but is kept in the dark constantly. His torment is plain as he 'put his eye to a chink'. This ultimately shows his desperation for light and human interaction with the open world, and emphasises the neglect and maltreatment he has suffered at the hands of the people who should care for him the most.
- Length: 2549 words
The use of, "turf face", shows that she is completely enveloped in the deep earth. Heaney uses the repetition of the word, "between", showing again that she is concentrated deep into the earth. However the word, "demesne", meaning land that was owned by a King, could show that because the woman was buried in such land of importance, then this is why she is revered as a Queen, the fact that she should be honoured to be sacrificed in such a place of high significance. This links to the idea that all bog people who were sacrificed were chosen, and therefore they should be extremely happy that they were chosen to be a sacrificial person.
- Length: 1703 words
The reason perceived by the audience is that the English journalist is, " 'in search of views on that Irish thing' ", meaning the Irish conflict. Heaney claims the journalist simply does not care about the means of the conflict, it is simply nothing to them and the means in which they write about it is ignorant. Also the fact that the journalist is English can be said to depict the idea that the English again, do not care about the Irish and the conflict.
- Length: 2565 words
Digging languageThe poem starts in the present tense. In the first line you find out that the poem is personal because of the word "my". The unusual simile "The squat pen rests, snug as a gun" is odd
The third stanza begins with the reader being told what the noise was. It says that the father is working on the flowerbeds, which implies that the father is quite old because he only digs up flowers now and does not dig for potatoes anymore. Then there is a flashback to twenty years earlier, where the poem changes to past tense. The persona thinks of his father working on the fields digging for potatoes. It tells us that his father was very skilful and was probably an expert at digging because of the phrases "in rhythm" and "potato drills".
- Length: 823 words
Follower is a poem about the poets love and admiration for his father. It is also about the changes that occur between father and children as children move out from their parent's shadow.
The poet uses onomatopoeic words to capture the details of his father as he works the plough. At the end of the first stanza he describes him leading the team of plough-horses, instructing them with his "clicking tongue". In the second stanza his father guides the horses with "a single pluck Of Rains". It is interesting that the onomatopoeia here emphasises the great skill with which the poet's father controls and guides his horses. It shows again his "expertise" and ease with the animals as he ploughs the field into furrowed lines.
- Length: 1628 words
It then continues to write about the frenzy of picking them - "lust for picking". Heaney presents the tasting of the berries as a sensual process, and also uses words like "flesh", and "thickened wine" to make the berries sound so desirable. Also"lust", to describe the childrens unrestrained desire and appetite for them. Heaney uses a lot of figurative language in this poem. Personification and a series of metaphors and similies are used: "flesh was sweet like thickened wine", the berry is personified and there is use of a similie, the metaphor "summer's blood", referring to the hard work and nourishment that nature has put into it, and then suddenly it is taken away by the children.
- Length: 787 words
There are a number of poetic devices to create an image. Firstly, the poet uses the metaphor 'in the heart of the town land' to add interest to the poem. He also uses languages like 'sweltered' and 'punishing sun' to convey to the reader the hot summers day Heaney remembers. Nature is also brought up in the poem by the metaphor 'bluebottles.' This creates a visual image of Heaney collecting frogspawn and also engages the reader. There is alliteration in the lines 'On shelves at school, and wait and watch' to create a calm and happy tone and a soft sound.
- Length: 740 words
'The Tollund Man' is another of Heaney's poems in which he comments indirectly on the sectarian violence in Ireland. This poem was written after Heaney was inspired by a book by P.V Glob which features recently discovered two-thousand year old bodies, which had been perfectly preserved in a peat bog in Denmark. This poem opens with the poet, Heany, saying how he would like to visit the body of 'The Tollund Man' at a museum in Aarhus, Denmark; something he actually did in 1973. 'Requiem For The Croppies' opens with the lines: 'The pockets of our greatcoats full of barley - No kitchens on the run, no striking camp- We moved quick and sudden in our own country', This
- Length: 1347 words
The poem has a fairly simple structure. In the first section, Heaney describes how the frogs would spawn in the lint hole, with a digression into his collecting the spawn, and how his teacher encouraged his childish interest in the process. In the second section, Heaney records how one day he heard a strange noise and went to investigate - and found that the frogs, in huge numbers, had taken over the flax-dam, gathering for revenge on him (to punish his theft of the spawn). He has an overwhelming fear that, if he puts his hand into the spawn again, it will seize him - and who knows what might happen then?
- Length: 1322 words
There is also no repetition of vowels or consonants which shows a lack in fluency. The repetition of p in the words 'peat' and 'pods' makes the verse sound very pronounced. Moreover, the smallness of his head is defined by the short i's and alliterated p's of the monosyllabic words in the first verse. "The balance of the initial and final p's in the fourth line seals the verse around the repose of the dead man". The description of the Tollund Man, 'peat-brown head' and 'pods of his eye-lids' relates back to the land and nature and the natural 'farmyards' in Northern Ireland.
- Length: 1209 words
The poet even puts very necessary elements of human body-the blood into the poem for readers to make them see better that blackberry are alive. As a result of the two contrasts is that death will always come and there is nowhere to hide from it. No matter how beautiful, juicy and nice is the blackberry, it will also die (rot in this case), as everything that is alive. What is significant to all Heaney's poems is that he describes and tells all the readers about his family traditions and this poem is no exception.
- Length: 1488 words
Using two of Heaney's poems, compare them for treatment of theme and style, noting signs of the poet's development.
Heaney also expresses his loss of innocence through this poem, as he develops knowledge and maturity. In the first section of the poem the language used is childlike, to show Heaney's naiveté, such as "jampotfuls", "slobber", and "fattening dots". This is also continued as Heaney talks about his lessons at school, learning about the "Mammy frog" and "Daddy frog", and these simple terms are used effectively to show a young Heaneys innocence. In the second part of the poem, however, there is a change in tone and a realisation for Heaney as he discovers that the "jellied specks" he collects are actually the offspring of the frogs.
- Length: 1414 words
The poet sees a car parked in a well-chosen 'gap'. It may look like two lovers having a quiet evening out or maybe men trying to plant a bomb. The poet notices two people running away from the car but as he is at a distance he cannot see them. He sees the terrorist, not lovers, hurrying over the border and suddenly the reality is clear. It is a car bomb The causes of violence are illustrated in the poem 'Anseo'.
- Length: 1071 words
With Close reference to Broagh, Anahorish and Anew Song, write about Heaney's use of language as a way of celebrating his Irish identity.
But in Broagh the same thing happens he firstly shows what the title of the poem means and in this case it means riverbank. This way of writing is significant because it is showing that he is proud of Ireland and that he is proud to teach others about his culture and what it means to be Irish. In 'A New Song' the first line again has a direct link with Ireland, but this time it is not linguistic as in the other two poems but it is geographical.
- Length: 698 words
Heaney has referred to the ancient tribal practices as "providing imaginative parallels to modern Irish politics" Examine punishment and two other poems in light of this statement.
Heaney emphasises the beauty of femininity writing that the wind "blows her nipples to amber beads". This line makes the listener feel the human aspect of the poem and its relevance within today's society it also creates a motif of human frailty that is carried on in the next line as the wind literally "shakes (her) frail...ribs". By brining in this human element Heaney destroys and time gap of two thousand years and makes the events of the ritual in the Iron Age and the punishment in Ireland strangely connected.
- Length: 964 words
In 1975 North was published, winning the E.M. Forster Award and the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize. During these years at Glanmore, Heaney also gave many readings in the United States and England and edited two poetry anthologies. In 1975 Heaney began teaching at Carysfort College in Dublin. In 1976 the family moved to Sandymount, in Dublin, and Heaney became Department Head at Carysfort. In 1979 he published Field Work, and in 1980, Selected Poems and Preoccupations: Selected Prose. In 1981 he gave up his post at Carysfort to become a visiting professor at Harvard.
- Length: 4150 words
Strange Fruit is one in a trilogy of poems known as the 'bog poems' by Heaney. This set of poems predominantly reflects upon the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, where killings were ritualistic and offerings from the villages to ensure a good harvest the following year. This particular bog poem is filled with images of death and dying. Inter-textuality is seen where the title 'Strange Fruit' refers to a song sung by Billie Holiday about the execution of black men in America.
- Length: 1052 words