The title poem from this collection is set on an island that has been a site of pilgrimage in Ireland for over a thousand years. A narrative sequence, it is an autobiographical quest concerned with 'the growth of a poet s mind'. The long poem is preceded by a section of shorter lyrics and leads into a third group of poems in which the poet s voice is at one with the voice of the legendary mad King Sweeney.
'Surpasses even what one might reasonably expect from this magnificently gifted poet.' John Carey, Sunday Times
Seamus Heaney was born in 1939 in County Derry in Northern Ireland. He grew up in the country, on a farm, in touch with a traditional rural way of life, which he wrote about in his first book Death of a Naturalist (1966). He attended the local school and in 1951 went as a boarder to St Columb's College, about 40 miles away in Derry (the poem 'Singing School' in North refers to this period of his life). In 1956 he went on a scholarship to Queen's University, Belfast and graduated with a first class degree in English Language and Literature in 1961. After a year as a post-graduate at a college of education, and a year teaching in a secondary modern school in Ballymurphy, he was appointed to the staff of St Joseph's College of Education. In 1966 Seamus Heaney took up a lecturing post in the English Department of Queen's University, and remained there until 1972, spending the academic year 1970-71 as a visiting Professor at the University of California in Berkeley.