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Seamus Heaney

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Introduction

Seamus Heaney is one of today's greatest living poets. His poems have the ability to reflect complex issues and themes, like politics, heritage, and conflict. The poems in Death of a Naturalist are centred on his personal search for his identity, and his feelings towards his family. While looking at these poems it becomes clear to the reader that Heaney's Irish heritage, are entwined with his identity, his views, and his family. These issues are fused together with the personal acceptance of becoming a poet and his experience of growing up. I will be looking at the first four poems in the Death of a Naturalist collection in particular the techniques that Heaney uses to present himself and his family, in order to create poignancy and engage those who are reading his work. In the poem "Digging" Heaney describes the deftness and dexterity in which his father performs his job as a farmer. Heaney's family profession has always been farming "the old man could handle a spade Just like his old man". Heaney starts the poem off by saying "The squat pen rests; snug as a gun". This simile draws parallels with the phrase "The pen is mightier than the sword", which indicates that Heaney feels as though writing is an effective weapon, and gives the impression of power at Heaney's fingertips. ...read more.

Middle

To me this doesn't sound like arrogance but it's rather Heaney showing that his father has aged and now Heaney he is an expert in his own field (possibly writing). Mid Term Break is a poem that focuses on the loss of family, and Heaney's experience of having to cope with the death of a loved one. In this poem Heaney mentions how he felt uncomfortable when he was treated like an adult " I was embarrassed By old men standing up to shake my hand". Heaney shows how the death of his younger brother was a stepping-stone for him entering the adult world, as part of growing up is learning how to cope with loss. This contrasts with the baby which "which cooed and laughed and rocked the pram", this shows that the baby is unaware of death and loss and remains oblivious to the tragedy that has just happened. The poem ends with a shocking line "A four foot box, foot for every year". This last line is effective because it gives the reader a clear picture of how small and young this child was when he died The "four foot box" gives the reader an image of a small coffin, which is always a shocking sight. Out of the four poems in the first section I think that this poem mentions the most about Heaney and his family, and has many themes that relate to family life. ...read more.

Conclusion

Heaney coming to terms with his identity, and way of life is mentioned in most of his earlier poems. The line "As a child, they could not keep me away from wells" shows how Heaney relates his childhood love of wells, to his love of poetry; Heaney's childhood is one of his sources of inspiration when it comes to writing poetry. Another character from Greek mythology Heaney mentions is "Narcissus" who was the vain youth who fell in love with his own reflection. I think Heaney uses this character to show to the reader that writing poetry may be a way of reflecting, and discovering more about his own identity. Here Heaney combines the tale of the "Muses", and "Narcissus" in order to produce an ancient and engaging atmosphere. All though nothing is mentioned about Heaney's family in this poem, it still gives insight into Heaney himself. In a sense this poem explains Heaney's other poems as it shows his enthusiasm and his motives for writing poetry. Overall the poems in the first section focus on Heaney's acceptance of moving away from the family profession, his admiration for his family members, and his experience of growing up. I think that these themes are found in his early poems because at this stage Heaney was still developing his confidence as a poet. It is also clear from the early poems that Heaney uses effective techniques like onomatopoeia, similes, metaphors, repetition, and diction in his poetry in order to make his poetry more engaging for the reader. ...read more.

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