“Bogland,” a short poem of seven four-line stanzas (quatrains), is the final work in Seamus Heaney’s second collection of poetry, Door into the Dark. Heaney was born in the small town of Mossbaum, in County Derry, and is considered one of the most accomplished of the “Ulster poets,” or writers from Northern Ireland. As is much of his early poetry, “Bogland” is heavily influenced by the writer’s rural upbringing and reflects his close ties to the Irish landscape. The title originates from Ireland’s often swampy countryside and from Heaney’s childhood memory of the local interest generated by the discovery of an elk’s skeletal remains in a bog near his hometown. The event was significant because, as he writes, “I began to get an idea of bog as the memory of the landscape, or as a landscape that remembered everything that happened in and to it.” The poem’s link to issues concerning the Irish countryside is further emphasized by its dedication to Thomas P. Flanagan, who authored several novels that reflected the political turmoil and class struggles in rural Ireland during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; he also wrote influential critical texts on Irish prose. Flanagan taught at the University of California at Berkeley when Heaney was a guest lecturer there from 1970 to 1971.
“Bogland” opens with the poet comparing the landscape of the American West to that of Ireland and contrasting the vastness of...
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