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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

    Analyse how Seamus Heaney uses language to convey his childhood experiences to the reader in his poems

    3 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.

    • Word count: 2781
  2. Explore how Heaney writes about suffering in 'Bye-Child' and in one other poem of your choice.

    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 c***k'. 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.

    • Word count: 2549
  3. Explore Heaney's Presentation Of The Irish Conflict In, "Whatever You Say, Say Nothing"

    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.

    • Word count: 2565
  4. Drawing examples from a range of poems discuss Heaney's treatment of what he has called History, Memory and Attachemetns.

    In Ireland when he was growing up Heaney was the first generation of working class people to have access to extended education, and the reader sees the difference between the poet inside by the window writing while his father still needs to labour on the land. In one sense the literal positions of father and son - one high at the window, the other low on the ground - shows the cultural distance between them. Similarly, the shift in the speaker's class position, having changed from the difficult circumstances of small farm life to educated middle class security, is registered

    • Word count: 2425
  5. In what ways do these two poets tell their stories so that readers will be shocked and moved?Which poem shocked and moved you more and why?

    setting off three bombs on the morning of July 31st 1972 killing nine people. "The Eviction" is simply about a village being evicted by their landlords and it shows the reactions of the people to this. "Claudy", however, describes what the people were doing at the time of the b**b and it shows their desperate attempts to fight death. In "The Eviction" we immediately see that it is in iambic pentameter. For example, "In early morning twilight, raw and chill." This is to give the effect of a relentless and methodical march, coming towards the village.

    • Word count: 2220

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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