Seamus Heaney's poems explore the loss of childhood and the cruel awakening into the world of adulthood. Discuss.
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POETRY COURSEWORK - SEAMUS HEANEY Seamus Heaney's poems explore the loss of childhood and the cruel awakening into the world of adulthood. Discuss. Seamus Heaney has been described as 'the best Irish poet since Yeats'. He was born on April 13th 1939 and was the eldest of nine children to Margret and Patrick Heaney, at the family farm in Mossbawn. He studied English in Queen's University in Belfast, also in Saint Joseph's College in Belfast, to become a teacher. After many years of writing "Death of a Naturalist" was published in 1966. It contains poems symbolic of death of childhood, specifically Heaney's childhood as a curious young "naturalist", eager to learn about nature. Heaney's poems reveal his thoughts of his childhood and his family. His poems are filled with the images of dying, but are also firmly rooted in childhood. His poems of transition explore the journey from childhood into the adult world. "Blackberry Picking" is a reflection of adulthood and childhood. Heaney tries to tell us that we should enjoy childhood because adulthood is disappointing. He gives the message to have low expectations, therefore when we grow up we will not be let down by the adult world. The poem is written from an adult perspective, although it has many childlike phrases in it.
It is effective and we see how innocent and pleasant life is as a child. Alliteration is used efficaciously to create a sense of monotony: "On shelves at school, and wait and watch." This repetitiveness is quite comforting to the reader. In stanza two however, alliteration is noted by the constanant C, which is hoarse and forceful, just like the verse itself. Heaney changes what is a simple and a natural event, into something sinister and intimidating. He uses onomatopoeia to make child-like, and also war-like, ideas much more realistic. "Bubbles gargled" is both friendly and pure. Conversely "slap and plop" is uncouth and pugnacious. In stanza two he says "pulsed like sails." This simile illustrates to us what the frogs are like to him. Heaney's use of language in this poem is little clearer than in "Blackberry Picking." It is not easy to grasp, nevertheless exceptionally effective, even at first glance. In the opening stanza Heaney uses simple and child-like imagery: "Bubbles gargled delicately." This is soft and pleasant. The words "warm thick slobber," are also very innocuous. They are comforting and affectionate. But a change is noticeable in stanza two, the imagery is now war-like. Words like "Invaded," "cocked," "mud grenades," "vengeance," are suggestive of war and weaponry. Even so they are effective in showing the fears and emotions in the mind of the young boy.
This is similar to "Death of a Naturalist" where a natural event is twisted into a violent and uncontrollably fearsome incident. This poem suggests that we must protect ourselves ("armoury") from other people and dangers we face as adults. We face being taken over by the force of greed and power. As children we have protection from adults, but who will shelter us in adulthood? No-one, we must fend for oursleves, the security we once had as children quickly evaporates leaving us isolated without hope or comfort. "Mouse-grey," "solid as cement" and "chilly concrete" are all suggestive of the discomfort ahead. Overall the poem describes the negative side to adultery, monotonous, boring, defensive, greedy and engulfing. Heaney drags out all of the aspects we loathe most about being an adult. Then he places them in an intimidating setting, through a child's perspective and allows us to interpret the experience for ourselves. Heaney presents a generally pessimistic, almost fatalistic view of adult life. His poems illustrate dangers and isolation vivid in adult life, in contrast to the dependence we rely on in childhood. They explain to us the dramatic change from innocence and purity as infants to corruption and voracity in adulthood. The poems are used to convey young Heaney's insecurities and uncertainties, coupled with a faint progression through the conclusion of each of the poems: something has been learned or achieved. What more can one hope for from these significant childhood incidences? Poetry Coursework - Seamus Heaney Nuala Malone
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Here's what a teacher thought of this essay
A well-structured essay which makes very good links between the three poems and explores in detail the theme of the loss of childhood innocence and the cruel awakening into adulthood. It stays firmly focused on what the essay demands throughout.
The quotations and examples used in order to support the points made are appropriate. There is good reference to audience response although this could be developed further. There is very good reference to the poems' structures and how they complement their themes.
Linguistic and structural features are referred to in detail and linked firmly to purpose. Some points could be developed further, for example how a natural setting lends itself to the themes Heaney explores. Some ideas need to be expressed more clearly in order to aid the quality of communication. There is also a need to proof-read and to make some corrections.
Marked by teacher Stephen Evans 13/05/2013
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