Heaney’s Edenic rural childhood is seen as the source of much of his poetry. As Dennis O’Driscoll notes, his ‘books have all included eidetic [unusually vivid] evocations of childhood’ (O’Driscoll 2009). And the loss of this trusted, safe world of childhood — signalled by Heaney’s departure from the family farm and his entrance into St Columb’s College as a boarder — is a further inspirational force: ‘The wound of expulsion from that tried, tested and trusted world hurt him into a poetry of evocation, yearning and elegy’ (O’Driscoll 2009).
As one schooled in the appreciation and criticism of literature through his grammar school education — where he excelled in Latin as well as English — and his studies in English language and literature at Queen’s University Belfast, it is not surprising that Heaney’s output has been critical as well as creative. His first major collection of prose, Preoccupations: Selected Prose 1968–1978 (1980), is an excellent source for discovering about Heaney’s poetic influences and development. For example, you can trace the influence on Heaney of other poets who were preoccupied with nature, such as Edward Thomas and Robert Frost, as well as Irish influences, such as Patrick Kavanagh.
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