Seamus Heaney

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Analysis of "Feeling Into Words" by Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney’s essay "Feeling into Words" is an autobiographical account of his early writing days and later writing days, where he argues that good writing is nothing more than a writer’s ability to transform emotions and ethereal connections in our lives to words on a blank page.

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Seamus Heaney ’s "Feeling into Words" is as much a meditation on the craft of writing in and of itself as it is an autobiographical account of Heaney’s early and later days of writing. The idea of "Feeling into Words" is that good writing is nothing more than a writer’s...

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Seamus Heaney’s "Feeling into Words" is as much a meditation on the craft of writing in and of itself as it is an autobiographical account of Heaney’s early and later days of writing. The idea of "Feeling into Words" is that good writing is nothing more than a writer’s ability to transform emotions and ethereal connections in our lives to words on a blank page. Heaney’s thesis is essentially that the ability to take complex emotions and themes from our lives, and translate them to words is the job of the writer. Heaney writes,

This was the first place where I felt I had done more than make an arrangement of words: I felt that I had let down a shaft into real life. The facts and surfaces of the thing were true, but more important, the excitement that came from naming them gave me a kind of insouciance and a kind of confidence.

This is an important early quote in the essay, as it essentially defines the idea of the entire work. There is an idea that Heaney has, which is that the job of a writer is to let down a “shaft into real life.” That means good writing needs to transcend dates and facts and superficial reality, and somehow touch on a universal truth that resonates with the reader. To name something on the surface is easy, but to name something that resonates with a kind of mortal precision in our heart – that is reserved for few writers. Essentially, Heaney’s Feeling into Words argues that the job of a poet is not to simply have a lyrical control over language, though that is important. Poets must be able to define themes and emotions that resonate in our hearts.

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