Tensions between past and present, rural and urban life, the individual and the community dominated the early life of poet Seamus Heaney who grew up in the ethnically torn Northern Ireland countryside.
Heaney, 71, came from a place where he and his family “still plowed with horses, lit the fire in the morning, carried water from wells.”
“In very quick time all that changed," Heaney said.
Rapid industrialization in the 1950s pushed his family to a more urban lifestyle.
Soon afterward, Heaney went to college and began writing “to make sense of a life in that time.”
In 1966, Heaney published his first major volume of poetry, The Death of a Naturalist. He relates the burden of succeeding for his ancestors in one of the volume’s most famous poems “Digging,” where a young man identifies his lineage as a succession of farmers followed by industrial workers followed by academics, such as himself.
“[Poetry] is a housing of the moment, a snapshot of consciousness that can be looked upon by other people,” Heaney said.
In doing so, Heaney said that he seeks to “strike a balance” between his individual identity and his community in his poetry.
Seamus Heaney received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995. His latest volume of poetry, District and Circle, was published four years ago.