Last Updated on September 5, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 313
Station Island is a collection of poems by Seamus Heaney. The titular poem, which makes up the book's entire second section, analyzes Heaney's thoughts and emotions regarding the civil strife in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. Station Island is in Lough Derg, located in County Donegal, Ireland, where there is a pilgrimage site called St. Patrick's Purgatory. This is important to note when trying to understand Heaney's intention with the collection, particularly the poem of the same name, because the poet makes a mental pilgrimage back home to Northern Ireland through conversations with his consciousness.
Heaney left Northern Ireland during the Troubles due to increasing sectarian violence, but he believes that leaving his home does not mean being apathetic towards the issues going on there. The poet himself has said in interviews that he wrote Station Island because he felt attached to what was going on in his homeland despite being away geographically. The poems contain opinions and mixed emotions from various perspectives, as if there are multiple characters giving their opinions on the political crisis going on in Ireland. These varied voices are all representative of Heaney's own complex opinions on the Troubles.
The reader can imagine a group of pilgrims making their way to Station Island, chatting and debating with each other on which is the right position to take regarding the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The collection of poems is a personal journey for Heaney: an outward pilgrimage toward his Irish roots and an inward pilgrimage towards his deepest feelings about the sectarian war.
The collection of poems takes inspiration from Dante's Inferno. Like Dante's epic poem, Heaney journeys through the violence and hatred happening in the streets of Northern Ireland in order to grasp some kind of understanding of why such civil strife and social fragmentation occurs—and eventually what he can learn about humanity by attaining that understanding.