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AS and A Level: Seamus Heaney

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Seamus Heaney's biography

  1. 1 He is a Northern Irish poet and playwright. He was born in 1939.
  2. 2 He is the eldest of nine children and was brought up on a farm.
  3. 3 His childhood provides material for a great deal of his poetry.
  4. 4 The Troubles (ie: the conflict in Northern Ireland) are also alluded to in his poetry.
  5. 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. 1 A lot of Heaney's poems are autobiographical and he draws upon the experiences of his childhood.
  2. 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. 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. 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. 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. 1 Embed quotations to show understanding and knowledge of poems.
  2. 2 Refer to the essay question in conclusion, introduction and topic sentences.
  3. 3 Use poetry terminology to show understanding of the techniques Seamus used in creating the poem.
  4. 4 Avoid describing the content - analyse the poem.
  5. 5 When comparing and contrasting two or more poems use the language of comparison and similarly discuss the similarities and differences of the poems.

  • Peer Reviewed essays 5
  1. Peer reviewed

    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.

    • Word count: 727
  2. Peer reviewed

    What is the importance of the land in Twentieth Century Irish Poetry?

    4 star(s)

    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?

    • Word count: 830
  3. Peer reviewed

    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.

    • Word count: 763

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?
  • Compare and contrast the treatment of emigration and rural life in “The Country Boy” by John Murphy and “Philadelphia, Here I Come” by Brian Freill.

    "I enjoyed both plays and enjoyed reading them but I think that "Philadelphia, Here I Come" shows a more accurate portrayal than "The Country Boy" because I think it shows a more realistic side of what it would be like for a young boy emigrating. Mostly they would've went and the way Gar has nothing to stay for is more real life, whereas "The Country Boy" shows more of a "...and they lived happily ever after" fairytale style ending, where Curly stays, marries his true love, gets the farm and gains his independence. It all just seems to good to be true. So, in conclusion, I think both plays were very good, but I think "Philadelphia, Here I Come" is a more accurate portrayal Sean Mc Quade 11B"

  • Using two of Heaney's poems, compare them for treatment of theme and style, noting signs of the poet's development.

    "In conclusion, it is clear that as a poet, Heaney has developed from his first collection of poetry, written in 1966,to the collection named Wintering out in 1972. I feel his style has become subtler and he has chosen to move away slightly from the conventions of poetry, such as rhythm and rhyme. His themes have also varied throughout the collection, yet it is clear one ongoing theme will be the history of Northern Ireland, and his own religion. Death of a naturalist was the starting point of his collection of poetry, and effectively developed the themes that remain prominent in his later collections."

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