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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.

  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
  4. Free essay

    Consider Heaney's presentation of relationships in Act of Union and one other poem

    Yet Heaney goes on to write, "I caress The heaving province..." this juxtaposition of the s****l 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."

    • Word count: 905
  5. 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".

    • Word count: 823
  6. Blackberry-Picking

    It then continues to write about the frenzy of picking them - "l**t 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"l**t", 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.

    • Word count: 787
  7. Death of naturalist - review

    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.

    • Word count: 740
  8. 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.

    • Word count: 698
  9. 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 n*****s 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.

    • Word count: 964
  10. Comment on Heaney's treatment of the theme of conflictand explore how it is used in the four collections - Explain whether his use of poetic devices varies according to his useof the theme.

    There is a strong use of imagery throughout all the poems and this poem is no exception. "Green and heavy headed", this is describing the flax in the flax d*m that he used to visit as a child. The structure of the poem is in two stanzas with a definite change between the two. The first section is the actual memory and how it happened and then the second section is where he sees the frogs copulating. The use of this form of structure is the same as the structure in "blackberry picking" which also shows the same change between each stanza.

    • Word count: 883
  11. It Matters to Me

    On arrival in Ireland, North or South these people worm their way through airport security using false documentation where they usually meet a representative of the people who are orchestrating the crime. When the immigrant workers arrive at their final location they use the excuse that they are tourists if confronted by the authorities. You may be wondering how this issue affects us. The immigrant workers are giving local employers the opportunity to employ workers for a cheaper wage, which leaves many local employees unwanted, and in the cold, thus saving the company huge costs.

    • Word count: 670
  12. Explore the theme of growing up in 'The Early Purges' and 'Death of a Naturalist', by Seamus Heaney.

    In death of a naturalist, the first stanza shows how the child saw the flax d*m, a clearly ugly thing, as being a place where 'bubbles gargled delicately, / bluebottles wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell.' Heaney glorifies nature in the way of a small child, to give the readers an idea of how it was. The sentimental view of the child in 'the early purges' also shows this. He sees the kittens as beautiful creatures, and so is 'suddenly frightened' when they are killed.

    • Word count: 549
  13. An Introduction to The Great Famine

    "Our accounts from the northern parts of this country are most deplorable. What the poor people earn on the public works is barely sufficient to support them. All their earnings go for food; and the consequence is, that they have nothing left to procure clothing. Since the extreme cold set in, sickness and death have accordingly followed in its train. Inflammation of the lungs, fevers, and other maladies, resulting from excessive privation, have been bearing away their victims. Many have died in the course of last week; and the illness in every case was traceable to the want of clothing and firing, if not of sufficient food."

    • Word count: 702
  14. Belfast Confetti - Ciaran Carson

    The use of punctuation words means there is a running theme through out the poem "raining exclamation marks...an asterisk on the map....hyphenated line....punctuated". A meaning that could be taken from this is that sentences are one of a few things that differ us from animals.

    • Word count: 294
  15. The poem Digging by Seamus Heaney explores themes of identity, ability and family relationships and values

    Using this tone as the speaker relates his inner thoughts and memories, Heaney establishes a close connection between the speaker and the reader. An array of vivid imagery is used to further engage the reader in the memories that are being illustrated. The speaker shows that even though he may not wish to follow the path of his forefathers, he can convey his respect for family tradition through his writing. Phrases such as ?The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft against the inside knee was levered firmly? (line 10)

    • Word count: 676

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