Seamus Heaney's "Peninsula"

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Seamus Heaney is a famous Irish poet who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995 and is considered by many to be the most interesting Irish poet since William Yeats, who likewise won a Noble Prize in his day. Heaney's literature frequently communicates the rather tranquil setting of his home land, Ireland, and in particular the North of the country, where he was born. (BBC News Magazine "Faces of the week", 19 January 2007)

His unique portrayal of Ireland’s countryside lead to his Noble Prize and the Swedish Academy mounting praise on him “for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth” (New York Times, October 6 1995, by William Grimes). His love for the Irish landscape is clearly evident to the reader in many of his poems. One such poem, “Peninsula”, published in the collection “Door into the Dark”, shows his extraordinary use of imagery and word choice to portray the scenery.

Perhaps the poem’s main theme is the concept of not being able to express yourself. Many great writers need stimuli in order to write, Charles Dickens is one famous example, and one would believe that it was the Irish countryside that helped stimulate Heaney’s mind and inspire him to write of its beauty. It appears, from the very first sentence of the poem that this is a journey that the narrator talks a lot. Like all writers, Heaney needs inspiration from somewhere.

“When you have nothing more to say, just drive
For a day all round the peninsula”

It seems that when Heaney finds himself in a situation of inarticulacy, when he struggles to express himself, he sets out on a drive round the peninsula. One could think that Heaney is supporting Henry Thoreau’s famous statement “how vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” That witnessing this great countryside is Heaney living and it gives him the inspiration to write. The fact he addresses the reader formally as “you”, seems to suggest that he want to instruct them to themselves...
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