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Heaney, like Sheers, grew up in a rural, farming background, like his father and his ancestors before him. This had had a huge influence on Heaney’s poetry as often the countryside or nature provides a foundation for his poems. His imagery is rooted in situations or descriptions that evoke the texture of rural Irish life. For example in his poem “Follower” Heaney states: “I wanted to grow up and plough,

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To close one eye, stiffen my arm.” This poem shows Heaney’s relationship with his father and the inspiration he drew from his father ploughing in rural Ireland. The father is very skilled, he is ‘An expert’ with “His shoulders globed like a full sail strung / Between the shafts and the furrow”. This shows the admiration Heaney has for his father’s strength and skill with horses. This suggests a man who spends much of his time out of doors, a man who is a part of nature. The word “globed” also suggests great strength and gives the impression that the father was the whole world to the young boy. It is important to note that his father is not simply strong; his tender love and care for his son are emphasised by the fact that he “rode me on his back/ Dipping and rising to his plod”. The sound and rhythm of these lines convey the pleasure young Heaney had in the ride.

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Heaney remembers when he was a small boy, and in the poem he looks up to his father in a physical sense, because he is so much smaller than his father, but he also looks up to him in a metaphorical sense. The choices of the verbs “Narrowed”, “angled” and “Mapping” suggest his father’s skill and precision. These memories of his rural childhood have given Heaney a great deal to write about, they have provided him with the inspiration to write poetry as he paints vivid, sensuous descriptions of these memories of Irish life.

“Hedge School”, by Owen Sheers also portrays how his rural upbringing has influenced his ability to write poetry. Sheers recalls his boyhood self blackberry picking on the walk home from school. The blackberry picking provides Sheers with a “lesson” as he experiments with ways of eating the berries with different degrees of ripeness. The berries of different ripeness could represent the ideas that form a poem that he must hoard together to form the “hedgerow caviar” or a poem itself. Sheers chooses “not to eat them at all, but slowly close my palm into a fist instead, / dissolving their mouthfeel over my skin”.

Sheers must take good care of his most precious ideas and not let them be lost to the depths of his mind, when his ideas emerge he cant just grab at them, he must protect them and let them develop instead, therefore Sheers is showing the intricacy and skill involved in creating a poem. Finally, he can express all his ideas in his poem as he allows the words to pour over the page in a similar way to how the berries dissolve on his skin. Therefore Sheers’ rural Welsh background has taught him and provided him with the inspiration needed to write poetry, much like how Heaney drew on his Irish upbringing as a stimulus for his poetry.

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Kylie Garcia

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