Seamus Heaney - a Great Modern War Poet

Seamus Heaney: A Memorable Poet

Due to his work on more than 20 volumes of poems and criticism and his role as an editor for a number of widely used anthologies, Seamus Heaney is regarded as one of the best and most well-known poets of the 20th century. The poet was awarded the Nobel Prize in writing in 1995 for some of his works, as can be seen from this. Heaney is a well-known author who has drawn readers from different countries to his works of epic translation of some of the greatest works of literature ever written. This paper discusses the use of symbols as well as words and syntax to create memorable work by the Seamus Heaney based on the observation of critic Helen Vendler. The essay also examines the use of poetry to create an order based on the speech by the poet on accepting the Nobel Prize for literature in 1995.

Creation of Memorable Poetry

Helen Vendler observes that the autobiographical and political thematic elements are not by themselves responsible for the memorable works in Seamus poetry. However, it is demonstrated that the Seamus also utilizes symbols to create the memorable effect. The critic further notes that the symbols can only be memorable if they are presented in a proper word structure. In the poem digging a memorable aspect coupled with the use of symbols is evident as is especially presented in an autobiographical tone (Heaney 3). From an autobiographical perspective the poet is able to create a memorable poem by examining the differences between different generations of men in a family. The various tools used by the men may be used to symbolize the difference between manual and non-manual labor with the spade and shovels used for digging and a manifestation of hard work.

The lines 1 and 2 of the poem are memorable due to the structure and the application of imagery to relay the intended message to the intended audience. The poet compares a pen as a tool to a gun (Heaney 3). A gun is a strong weapon that can be used to accomplish great acts such as violence and intimidation. A memorable effect is thus created in the essence that the poet wants the reader to remember a pen as a powerful tool that can be used in accomplishing various feats. The lines also present a picture a pen as having the ability to rest. The rest of digging illustrates how the other men (grandfather and father) are using their tools for routine duties. The work can thus be easily memorized as it presents the thematic patterns of autobiography that reflect the daily activities to present the message to the readers.

Seamus Heaney's use of structural techniques and symbols to create a work that can be memorized is observed in the poem Death of a Naturalist in which a narrative tone approach is utilized by the poet to present the situation characterizing a particular environment. Heaney recalls in the Death of a naturalist how as a young boy he possessed childish enthusiasm of nature (Heaney 5). The expressiveness of words and symbols as observed as observed by Vendler is noted in the use of language that is full of assonant and alliterative effects such as 'heavy-headed' and 'flax-dam festered'. On the same the choice of words is manifested in the application of vocabulary to present some of the words to enhance their ability to be recalled by the readers. Various vocabularies like festering, sweltering, smelling and rotting are used to present the concept of fermentation. The use of symbolism of the loss of the nature's beauty to lead to the decadence of the town dam can be seen as playing an essential role in the demonstrating the essence of the boyhood innocence that is associated with the appreciation of the aspects of nature. The feelings into the words in Death of a naturalist can be observed to be closely related to the Blackberry-Picking. The two poems are both used to refer to the good and the bad sides of nature while both are used to demonstrate the aspects of Heaney's boyhood.

Use of Poetry to Create Order

In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech (crediting poetry), Seamus believes that poetry can be used as a technique for creating order. The author indicates that when he began writing poems he wanted to portray the literary aspects as a concrete and reliable representation of the direct world. In the Nobel lecture, the poet recalls his childhood in a rural home in Northern Ireland with an ever-growing family as well as the conditions in which they lived (Heaney 417). The lack of order is visible in the condition that the author describes the fact that they were overcrowded in three rooms of traditionally thatched farmsteads listening to the wireless radio. Furthermore, Seamus indicates that he credits poetry for making it possible to achieve various opportunities. Heaney Seamus describes how poetry made a guest in Stockholm something he thought was not possible due to his humble background. Poetry can therefore be seen as a tool that allows individuals not only to accomplish the seemingly impossible feats or what Seamus refers to as space-walk. In his crediting of poetry as enabling the possibility of creating an order that depicts a true impact of the external realities as they relate to the internal laws.

The external reality in Death of a naturalist for instance includes an environment that is constantly undergoing changes that may lead to chaotic state that are encountered by the individuals. The change described in the poem entails a condition that was first loved by an individual but after sometime, a change occurs and the person is no longer interested in continuing with the once-loved condition. The poet can be seen to have established order in Death of a naturalist in attempts to show the reality of the external environment as demonstrated in the conflicted relationship with nature. Initially, the change in season fascinates the speaker especially as spring brings with it frogspawn that is fun to scoop and put in jars and watch the transformation. However, at the end of the poem it is noted that the encountered with the reality of the reproduction in frogs and is frightened and disgusted by what he sees. Seamus has thus utilized the poem as a way of showing the exact impact of the external environment on an individual's internal feelings and laws. The reality of the frog reproduction can be for instance, observed as having a significant impact on the speaker's inner perception of the change that has been demonstrated.

In the poem Blackberry Picking the poet shows the use of poetry to create an order by describing how occurrences in life may not always live to their expectations. Heaney's depiction of poetry as capable of helping in attaining a fluid and restorative relationship between the center of the mind and its circumference is demonstrated in how an individual who is growing up is faced with the expectations of the mind against the reality of life. The order that is essential in the creation of all that is appetitive is realized in the poem's description of the poet's experience in picking and eating the blackberries.


Considering the poems Death of a Naturalist, Blackberry-Picking, and Digging as examples of Heaney's works, the comments by Helen Vendler about the use of symbols and thematic elements to create memorable poetry are thus affirmed. The author has also achieved presentation of the memories of his childhood by using techniques word-choice, sentence structure, imagery, and tone. Furthermore it is observed that most of Seamus' works gained reputation for the use of natural imagery and symbolism. On the same note, it can be observed that the other theme that is dominant in Seamus' poetry is growing up as demonstrated in Death of a Naturalist, and Blackberry-Picking. Similarly, the imagery of nature is dominant in the two poems as well as the disappointments that individuals undergo especially when they don't get what they expected. The application of poetry as a tool for creating an order that is useful for the satisfaction of all that is appetitive.

Works Cited

Heaney, Seamus. Opened Ground: Selected Poems, 1966-1996. Macmillan, 1999.

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