Notes on Selected Poems
Notes on selected poems of Seamus Heaney
by Michael Woods
With the exception of ‘Perch’, all the poems are taken from Heaney’s first collection, Death of a Naturalist, published in 1966 when he was twenty-seven. As such, there is a coherence in the examination board’s selection. It would be a great pity, though, to limit yourself to reading only these poems as they do not reflect the tremendous range of Heaney’s poetic output.
It is important to differentiate between those poems that are clearly autobiographical in nature, and have been acknowledged as such by Heaney, and those poems that are not. “Storm on the Island” and “At a Potato Digging” are clearly not autobiographical in their stance. In general, one should be very careful when considering the use of the first person in poetry as it can lead to naïve or mistaken readings.