Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Poetry, Revised Edition)
In part, “Bogland” illustrates the poet’s quest to break free from artistic conventions and traditions. Historically, poets have struggled with the need to create their own identities as artists, and this struggle has been difficult for twentieth century Irish poets living in the shadow of influential writers such as William Butler Yeats (1865-1939). Searching for his own artistic roots, Heaney followed the advice of fellow Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh (1905-1967), who believed that the local, or parochial, could transcend its mundane, or provincial, limitations to represent universal themes. The close scrutiny of the landscape in “Bogland” provides the poet with a metaphor for exploring larger cultural themes.
One of the most omnipresent themes in Irish literature is the search for a national identity. Having lived in Northern Ireland during the “Troubles” (the political and religious conflicts between unionists and separatists, with origins that trace back hundreds of years), Heaney is keenly aware of the difficulties associated with establishing a national identity. The poet avoids the problems of essentializing his definition of Irish culture by presenting culture as a landscape in a perpetual state of metamorphosis. Ireland and the Irish are not a single, simply identifiable entity determined solely by political or religious affiliations. Rather, they are the accumulation of thousands of years of history, which becomes jumbled and...
(The entire section is 400 words.)
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