Irish poetry is a fundamental aspect of literature in Ireland that helps to explain various experiences and circumstances, which are, in turn, expressed and brought to life through text. Modern Irish poets transitioned from romanticism to more modern discussions.  As the twentieth century brought forth the longing for a united nation, Irish poetry was among the many types of literature that supported revivalism and nationalism. However, these Irish poets still wanted to contain historical context such as past culture and traditions in their poems.  In respect to Seamus Heaney, his poems presented his own personal experiences and his opinions on restoring Irish culture.  Heaney, possibly alike other Irish poets of his time, moved forward into the future by shifting from past traditional ideas to embracing Ireland’s heritage through an advanced and modern concept. Modern Ireland Edit
Historically, Ireland was a public target for Norman earls, however as these foreigners grew accustomed to the countryside, many adapted to Ireland’s lifestyle.  Consequently, the Irish communal identity was cohesive previous to the intensive colonization efforts that were to come. Under the thumb of the English rule, Ireland radically transformed from a mainly rural and resource based economy and society to a massive growth of modernization and hence, urbanization.  England’s influence reformed Ireland’s rural communities, in which England sometimes brutally changed Ireland’s economy to exploit the land and produce “manufactured goods,” which, in turn, had a profound effect on the nation and its identity.  As England imposed its culture onto the Irish, Ireland transformed its rural lifestyle into urbanized modes of living.  England’s reinforcement of Ireland’s previous lifestyle concluded to the massive change of urbanization, especially among those residing in the rural regions of the country.  The agricultural system that supported generations of Irish lifestyle and its occupations, experienced major transformations in which Ireland had to adapt to industrial regime.  Beyond just the economic change, Ireland also experienced political and social alterations, instigated from modernization. 
As modernization redefined Ireland’s culture and lifestyle, the demand to move forth with new urbanized customs instigated rage and ambition amongst individuals who wanted to overrule England’s authority and restore home rule.  Ireland’s advancement in modernization was no longer able to restore all of its agricultural traditions however, individuals affected by modernization were enraged and had the opportunity to retaliate with the Irish Rebellion. 
Several of Seamus Heaney’s poems reflected on Ireland’s transformation into an urbanized and modernized nation. He was inspired to write about the experiences that influenced and affected his life as a youth.  In Digging, Ireland’s urban evolution is reflected by Heaney's comparison of his father and grandfather to himself in Digging. These changes are also evident in the abandonment of pastoralism in Death of a Naturalist.  As Heaney explores the implications of modernization throughout his work, such as the underlying issues of violence and division that have resulted. Seamus Heaney's Biography Edit
Seamus Heaney was and still is, posthumously, one of Ireland's most influential poets. Born in 1939, Heaney was the eldest of nine children and a son to a cattle dealer.  Growing up in County Derby, Heaney was raised in a rural community, which is an imperative foundation to many of his literary works.  Heaney attended Queens University in Belfast, earning an honorary degree in English and Literature, and beginning his career as an educator.  Throughout the duration of his occupation as an instructor, Heaney published various poems in newspapers such as: the Irish Times and Belfast Telegraph, a contribution to his success in poetry.  Heaney won an Eric Gregory Award and the Cholmondeley and Geoffrey Fabel Memorial Award later in his literary career for one of his most popular poems, Death of a Naturalist.  He effectively portrayed Ireland’s destitute times and struggle for independence, which were facilitated by the intrusive effects of colonization. Among various Irish poets, Heaney yearned to reveal the issues resulting from urbanization and defend Ireland’s heritage and cultural background.  In Elmer Andrew’s interpretation of Heaney’s poetry, he states,
“For Heaney, a sense of self depends on a sense of place and a sense of history, something which is typical of the Irish writer’s desire to protect and preserve what is threatened and diminished. Possession of the land, like possession of different languages, is a matter of particular urgency in Ireland. It marked the beginning of a discovery of confidence in the Irish writer’s own past, his own place, his own speech, English and Irish”. 
As mentioned in the passage above, Heaney defended and protected Irish nationality and heritage through the production of his poetry.  As a result of his contributions, Seamus Heaney was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1995 for his involvement Irish Literature. Death of a Naturalist Edit
Heaney’s collection of poems, “Death of a Naturalist” published in 1966, gave the public an opportunity to appreciate Seamus Heaney’s political stance on Ireland.  Scholars suggested that Heaney wanted to shed light onto the problematic occurrences in Ireland by addressing the effects of colonization, and to heal an unfortunate land experiencing distress and segregation. In order to reveal his political and economic beliefs and opinions through his poetry, Heaney contemporized historical circumstances into the modern world.  The singular poem, Death of a Naturalist within his collection, pertains to a young child who locates frogspawn in banks near agricultural lands.  He removes the eggs from their habitat and displaces them among his recognized locales such as home and school, and continually examine the young eggs grow into tadpoles.  As the poem progresses, the child considers the invasion of “angry frogs” whom retaliate, and provide, “obscene threats” causing the child to run. 
In Heaney’s, Death of a Naturalist. he attempts to highlight how individuals should compromise with nature, and have nature live by its own natural circumstances. He does so by trying to eliminate the ideas of pastoralism.  The beginning of the poem establishes Heaney as a naturalist, acquiring an organism from its ecological habitat and segregating the organism into a controlled state.  We are able to identify Heaney’s regulation over the frogs in the following lines,
“But best of all was the warm thick slobber/ Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water/ In the shade of the banks. Here, every spring/ I would fill jampotfuls of the jellied/ Specks to range on window-sills at home, On shelves at school, and wait and watch until/ The fattening dots burst into nimble- Swimming tadpoles”. 
At the poem’s conclusion, Heaney furthers his point to destroy pastoralism through the description of, “The angry frogs/ Invaded the flax-dam”, suggesting that the organisms retaliated from captivity.  Furthermore, he sheds light onto the misrepresentation of nature’s lifestyle as the frogs overcome the controlled environment, “The great slime kings/ Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew/ That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it”. . Seamus Heaney’s Death of a Naturalist demonstrates promoting wildlife in its natural state by discarding ideas of pastoralism. 
In Heaney’s Death of a Naturalist. he uses symbolism to further highlight the poem’s meaning in connection with farming industries and rural Ireland.  As Heaney reminisces on his childhood past, and discusses his “rural origins”, it may be possible that Heaney’s, Death of a Naturalist. highlights Ireland’s transition into urbanization.  In Death of a Naturalist. Heaney outlines two views: abandoning the control over the natural world and as an alternative, meeting nature in the middle by understanding their purposes and natural way of living as well as the transformation of urbanized living.  In representing the natural world (the frogs) as the colonized, Death of a Naturalist also may shed light on the transformation of rural Ireland to an urbanized, and developed national land. The introduction of the poem first describes the rural atmosphere,
“All year the flax- dam festered in the heart/ Of the townland; green and heavy- headed/ Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods/ Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun. Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles/ Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell". 
As the poem continues, the child whom represents Heaney as a youth, removes the eggs and positions them to his own choosing, enforcing the frogspawn to adapt to the new setting in which Heaney enforced.  .Digging Edit
In 1966, Heaney’s collection of poetry titled, “Death of a Naturalist” gained admiration from the public.  Within this collection, Seamus Heaney presented a poem called Digging. which exhibited both detachment and progress, as the narrator attempts to advocate the issues experienced in Ireland through writing as opposed to continuing his ancestral traditions as a farmer.  Seamus Heaney’s Digging. is introduced by the narrator whom reflects on how a pen, which is being compared to a gun, is comfortable in his hand".  As the poem develops, the narrator recalls his father digging, an occupation that was inherited from Heaney’s grandfather. . Through the actions that his family describes while working, the narrator proclaims that he will not bequeath this position.  .The narrator describes, “But I’ve no spade to follow men like them” and instead “dig” with his pen.  In Digging. the narrator represents Seamus Heaney and his recollections of life as a son in Ireland, a son who embarks on a new position instead of continuing his family’s lineage as farmers. 
Seamus Heaney represents descendants of farming families as he is one of many sons who are doubtful to maintain the family business.  If they choose horticulture, the sons will bear the burden of this occupation whereas those who escape leave the family’s success.  Seamus Heaney’s poem,Digging. signifies the occurring issue amongst children who may inherit family companies. In the poem, Heaney elaborates on his father and grandfather’s job as a farmer by describing their success. This success may be seen as the narrator describes, “By God, the old man could handle a spade/ Just like his old man” and continues with,
“My grandfather cut more turf in a day/ Than any other man on Toner’s bog/ Once I carried him milk in a bottle/ Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up/ To drink it, then fell to right away/ Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods/ Over his shoulder, going down and down/ For the good turf. Digging”. 
As the poem concludes, the narrator chooses which path he will follow. Seamus Heaney, who is clearly the narrator or at least the implied voice, chooses to leave the success of farming, “But I’ve no spade to follow men like them” and embark on his own path through individual success in writing.  .
Digging reflects upon Heaney’s position on the sustainability and necessity of Irish culture and identity. As an alternative to embracing urbanization at the expense of rural lifestyles, Heaney preserves the work ethic and knowledge of rural life with the combination of more urban pursuits, such as writing poetry.  Heaney discards the naturalist/ pastoral perspective from previous poems in exchange for unity with heritage and ancestry.  In Digging. the poem’s introduction begins with Heaney’s first statement of his pen relaxing so effortlessly, “snug as a gun”, to initiate his stance in regards to writing literature.  The gun that is “snug” may be referenced to past conflicts with Ireland.  Instead of violence, in which a gun would be a primary source of weaponry, the pen takes the place of the gun and instead, Heaney uses the pen to write and move forward from historical conflictions.  The readers are given vivid imagery of Heaney holding the pen comfortably as he reminisces on his father digging with a spade.  Heaney reflects on various instances where his grandfather or father are digging, such as: “Where he was digging” and “For the good turf digging” while he recalls the success of his family’s rural occupation.  .In the final verse of the poem, Heaney’s revivalist stance is present as he transitions from reminiscing on the successful past of his ancestry’s farming to the success he will achieve by writing. Seamus Heaney describes, “Between my finger and my thumb/ The squat pen rests/ I’ll dig with it”, informing that Heaney will “dig” with his pen, into his Irish heritage and culture.  .The exchange of the spade for a pen results in the relation between Heaney and the “ancestral traditions in an immemorial rural world”. 
William Butler Yeats Edit
William Butler Yeats was born on 13 June 1865 in the Dublin suburb of Sandymount . He was born to John Butler Yeats, a painter and philosopher and Susan (nee Pollexfen) Yeats. His great-grandfather was a rector of Drumcliff in County Sligo, where he was most happy during his childhood riding a pony with a black dog and began steeping himself in the faery lore of the peasants . He moved to London with his family in 1868 but hated living there, the only thing he was interested in was his father’s friends who were painters of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood . In 1880, he returned to Ireland to the country of Howth which was surrounded by faery folklore which entertained him more than his studies . At 17, he started writing poetry but his father sent him to Metropolitan School of Art in Kildare Street . Due to Yeats’ poor eyesight - both eyes were weak, the left almost useless - he was unable to paint beyond that of an amateur . Yet, like another great half-blind Irishman, James Joyce, he still seemed to see what mattered most . He soon met John O’Leary (a famous patriot who was imprisoned and exiled for revolutionary nationalistic activities) who encouraged Yeats to adopt Irish subjects for writing thus throughout his life he produced many poems based on Irish legends, folklore, ballads and songs . Through O’Leary, he met Maud Gonne who lead him to become a radical Irish nationalist  who influenced his writing and his heart but was unable to marry her . He soon after was introduced to Oscar Wilde (who had not been touched by scandal yet) and found him brilliant, hospitable and open-hearted . Yeat’s fascination with the occult influenced him to join the secret society the Order of the Golden Dawn in 1890  who were a society of “Christian Cabbalists” who practiced ritual magic . In 1916, he became a staunch exponent of the nationalist cause, inspired by the Easter Rising at Dublin Castle . In 1917, he married Georgina Hyde-Lees who he had two children with Anne and William Michael  .
Yeats’ first volume of verse was The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems published in 1889 . He devoted himself to writing Irish subjects - poems, plays, novels and short stories . He constantly and continually changed his writing style over his lifetime . In the twentieth century he simplified his rhythms and diction poetical . As he grew older, he wanted all art to be filled with energy . As a poet, he tried to transform the local concerns of his lifetime by using a universal language within his poems . He used the final ending lines of his poem “Under Ben Bulben” as his epitaph . which reads “Cast a cold eye/On life, on death/ Horseman, pass by!” . During his lifetime, he wrote several volumes of poems, plays, novels, short stories, and letters including The Countess Kathleen and Various Legends and Lyrics (1892), The Celtic Twilight (1893), The Wind Among the Reeds (1899), The Shadowy Waters (1900), Cathleen Ni Houlihan (1902), The Unicorn from the Stars and Other Plays (1908) with Lady Gregory, The Green Helmet and Other Poems (1910), Reveries over Childhood and Youth (1916), The Cat and the Moon (1924), The Winding Stair and Other Poems (1933), Wheels and Butterflies (1934), On the Boiler (1939) and Last Poems and Plays (1940), posthumously  .To A Child Dancing in the Wind Edit
Yeats’ “To A Child Dancing in the Wind” is a two part poem which talks about the vulnerability of a child as she dances in the wind as she is unable to recognize the destructive forces around her . In the poem, Yeats’ watches the girl as she dances and her hair tumbling. He views the child using a semi-Romanticism view of childhood, where a child is innocent, intuitively wise, spontaneous, happy, perceptive, sensitive  but yet warns of the dangers she cannot seen. The dangers she cannot see are referenced in the lines “What need have you to care/For wind or water’s roar?"  (Yeats, 2-3) and “What need have you to dread/The monstrous crying of the wind?" . She does not know of the dangers that the wind and water can have that adults know of but Yeats in referencing the wind may be suggesting a supernatural cause. With Yeats’ background in faery mythology and folklore, his mention of the wind could be in reference to faery wind. Faery wind is gusting or blasting wind or whirlwinds that appear suddenly and were thought to be caused and contain faeries . Despite the fact the wind and faeries could be helpful, it was also believed that the wind brought illness which caused injury to humans and animals, especially in the eyes  .
In the second half of the poem, Yeats’ states the values that safeguard her against the potential disasters . kindness, innocence, youth, and the ability to dream. Yeats wants to warn her of the dangers she cannot see or fathom to see but knows she will not believe him because of her innocence. Yeats’ semi-Romanticism view of the child is seen more “as a delicate growth which needs the shelter of social and civilized values, rather than as a beautiful blossom which society will warp and wither” . Yeats’ “To A Child Dancing in the Wind” is a realistic attitude of the innocence of children and the dangers that surround them that they do not realize are there.
Katharine Tynan (1859 - 1931) was an Irish writer and poet . Her first volume of writing was Louise de la Vallière and Other Poems  published in June of 1885 . The subject of her poems are drawn from Irish myths, nature and religion  .The titular poem, “Louise de la Vallière” was based on the life of the Duchess de la Vallière, a mistress of Louis XIV . Throughout Tynan’s first volume, she takes inspiration from the English poet Christina Rossetti (1830 - 1894) and imitates her style of writing but as she matured, Rossetti’s style disappeared from her work  .
Christina Rossetti’s poetry utilized Christian beliefs, Victorian values of self-sacrifice and renunciation, and a melancholy, mournful tone that Tynan recognized after Rossetti’s death . Rossetti’s artistic writing style was influenced by her older brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti who was the leader of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB) . The PRB believed art should not be based on a particular school of art and preferred to focus on art before Italian Renaissance painter and architect Raphael’s influence on art  . Rossetti’s poems were published at first by the PRB’s The Germ magazine in 1850  as well as using PRB artist Arthur Hughes for her poems for children . Her association with the PRB, as well as her intellectual pursuits and her unmarried status made her an interesting role model for Tynan to follow.
Despite Tynan’s imitation of Rossetti, Tynan is often connected to William Butler Yeats whom she met in 1886 . Yeats edited Tynan’s work over the years and they were at one point thought to be romantically involved . In 1893, Tynan married Henry Hinkson . After Tynan’s marriage to Hinkson, her poetry celebrated and also critiqued married life and love, motherhood and the beauty of nature . Over Tynan’s lifetime she published eighteen volumes of poetry, over thirty-five romance novels, innumerable biographical studies, anthologies, essays and reviews and five volumes of memoirs . Tynan was as much a literary force to be reckoned with as Yeats.The Children of Lir Edit
The poem “The Children of Lir” focuses on the swan myth and tells the story of Lir’s children who are transformed into swans by an enchantment. The swan maiden myth is found throughout Europe and Asia. Swan maidens are often portrayed as young women who have the power to transform into a swan with a dress of swan feathers or a magic ring or chain . Lir was a sea god who lent his name to many places, and is known as the father of Manannan Mac Lir, the Manx sea god, magician, and god of healing  .
The swan myth can be seen as Tynan trying to escape the confines of the definition of womanhood created in the Irish Constitution. The poem suggests that there is no escape from this identity, as the metaphorical women are trapped in the myth of the home in the mythologies of Ireland. As women were confined within the home, just as her swans were confined in a “bird’s stature” . through “Children of Lir” Tynan encourages women to no longer be confined and to rebel against “the curse” that has been placed upon them. Tynan attempts to influence her audience to let go of the past and the defining confinements of womanhood in Ireland, and as a result gain the freedom of a bird.
Medbh McGuckian was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1950 . She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Irish Literature from Queen’s University in Belfast  as well as her Master of Arts in Irish Literature where she was taught by the poet Seamus Heaney . In 1979, her career was launched after winning the British National Poetry Competition for “The Flitting” . With the success of her career, McGuckian was the first woman to be named Writer-in-Residence at Queen’s University, Belfast and was Visiting Fellow at the University of California, Berkley . She currently teaches creative writing at the Seamus Heaney Poetry Centre at Queen’s University, Belfast  .
She lives with her husband and four children in Belfast where she grew up . McGuckian’s poetry is known for being dense, oblique, and at times cryptic . Her poetry is often concerned with feminist and feminine issues including pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood . Her poetry also touches on the political issues concerning “The Troubles” in Ireland . McGuckian currently has thirteen major collections of poetry including The Flower Master (1982), Venus and the Rain (1984), On Ballycastle Beach (1988), Marconi's Cottage (1991), The Flower Master and Other Poems (1993), Captain Lavender (1994), Shelmalier (1998), Drawing Ballerinas (2001), The Face of the Earth (2002), Had I a Thousand Lives (2003), and The Book of the Angel (2004)  .Love Affair With Firearms Edit
The poem “Love Affair With Firearms” has many specific references and sometimes cryptic meanings buried within the subtext. “Love Affair With Firearms” is about the pain of young men’s deaths and the pain of the lovers they have left behind. The two opening lines of McGuckian’s poem can be interpreted in two ways. The first is in conjunction with the second stanza of her referring to the young men who died in the First and Second World Wars in France fighting for freedom. In the second interpretation, if taken on its own, the first stanza can be seen as a reference to the endless death and sacrifices that young men made to gain Home Rule as well as the deaths that continue with The Troubles in Ireland. The third line of the stanza references Fermanagh and Tyrone. Fermanagh was a county in Northern Ireland until 1973 when it became a district . Tyrone was a county in Northern Ireland until 1973 when the administrative reorganization of Northern Ireland divided the county into various districts  .
In the fourth stanza of McGuckian’s “Love Affair With Firearms” she makes a reference to Artemis. She writes, “Artemis, protector of virgins, shovels up fresh pain with the newly-wed long-stemmed roses”  .
Artemis is known as the goddess of wild animals, the hunt and vegetation, and of chastity and childbirth . She is the daughter of Zeus and Leto, as well as the older sister and twin of Apollo . Her character and function varied  due to the various epithets given to her in various locations throughout Greece . Her Greek (panhellenic) persona was of a virgin goddess and huntress. She presided over women’s transitions from virgin to woman to childbirth and the rearing of children in which she was known by the epithet of Artemis Lochia . In Sparta, Artemis was known as Artemis Orthia where she presided over the transition of spartan boys becoming elite warriors and citizens . Artemis’ persona did include certain aspects of war and she could be vengeful at times . One such story includes Artemis and Apollo murdering the children of Niobe who boasted about how many children she had in comparison to Leto . Before the battle of Troy, Artemis demanded that Iphigenia, the daughter of Agamemnon, be sacrificed so that the Archaeons would have a fair wind to sail to Troy  .
The Artemis in McGuckian’s poem is the persona who presides over virgins as well as the newly-wed women which is part of her persona. She also “shovels up fresh pain”  which is suggestive of her function in certain aspects of war; it could also be about her demand for sacrifice, the sacrifice of young men.
Eilean Ni Chuilleanain Edit
Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin was born in 1942  and brought up in Cork city . She was raised by two intellectual Republican parents; her mother, novelist Eilis Dillion  and father Cormac O Cuilleanáin who was a Professor of Irish at University College Cork (UCC) . Chuilleanáin received her Bachelor of Arts in English and History at University College Cork and a Masters of Arts in English . In contrast to her father, Chuilleanáin teaches English Renaissance literature at Trinity College in Dublin  .
Chuilleanáin published her first collection Acts and Monuments in 1972 . Her poetry uses history, religion, landscape and mythology . She also investigates in her poetry the treatment of art, gender and politics . She has noted William Butler Yeats, Constantine Cavafy, Sir Philip Sydney and Richard Crashaw as having an influence on her work . Chuilleanáin has several collections of poetry which include Acts and Monuments (1972), Site of Ambush (1975), The Second Voyage (1977), Cork (1977), The Rose-Geranium (1981), The Magdalene Sermon and Earlier Poems (1991), and The Brazen Serpent (1994)  .Pygmalion's Image Edit
Chuilleanáin’s “Pygmalion’s Image” is a new take on the myth of Pygmalion . The myth of Pygmalion is best known in Ovid’s Metamorphoses . Pygmalion was a man (a king of Cyprus in one version of the myth  ). He was disgusted with the behaviour of women whom the goddess of love, Venus/Aphrodite, had influenced their lewd behavior . He sculpted the image of his ideal woman or his ideal of womanhood . The statue appeared to be alive  to Pygmalion who fell in love with his ivory creation, Galatea . He asks Venus/Aphrodite to give him a wife like his ivory creation and that night, the statue comes to live . Many authors have wondered how the woman must have felt, being born a woman and awaking to already have a lover . Chuilleanáin does not deal with how the woman must have felt awaking a fully-grown and with a lover but not yet born, confined and trapped within her ivory body. Pygmalion’s ivory woman is used to take the place of women in Ireland who are trapped and unable to change their circumstances due to the Constitution stating that a woman’s place is in the home.
“The crisp hair is real, wriggling like snakes”  recalls another myth. Medusa was one of three Gorgons but was the only one who was mortal . Medusa’s head and face was referenced as having snakes for hair and a stony gaze  Her visage was so frightening that after the hero Perseus beheaded her, the sight of her head turned anyone who saw it into stone . Chuilleanáin’s woman is carved of stone but has snakes for hair like Medusa convoluting the two myths. As the woman has snakes for hair, it can be assumed that she is capable of turning others into stone. If she was alive, her abilities would be something people would be frightened of because she is capable of great things but as she is only stone and trapped, she is stuck. Despite being trapped, the last line of the poem “A green leaf of language comes twisting out of her mouth” suggests there is hope for women through language to escape from their circumstances.