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April 13

Seamus Heaney was born on this day in 1939.

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Seamus Heaney was born on this day in 1939.

Grades 7 – 12
Calendar Activity Type Author & Text





Seamus Heaney was born in Ireland on April 14, 1939. He published his first volume of poetry in 1965 and has gone on to publish nearly a dozen collections as well as a critically acclaimed translation of the epic Beowulf. Heaney has also written important prose about writing poetry, including The Government of the Tongue and The Redress of Poetry. An active promoter of the art of writing poetry, Heaney won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995. He died in 2013.




Share with students one of Seamus Heaney's most famous poems, "Digging." Ask students to focus on the figurative language the speaker uses to characterize himself as a writer, especially as he compares himself to his father and grandfather. Challenge students to discern the speaker's attitude toward himself as a writer, and how metaphor, simile, and image contribute to their understanding and appreciation of the poem.

Using Heaney's poem as an inspiration, invite students to write a poem that uses an extended metaphor (or a series of metaphors or other comparisons) to express their own attitudes toward themselves as writers. Point out that the speaker of "Digging" expresses his attitudes by comparing his pen positively to a gun, and then later, his pen both positively and negatively to a shovel or spade. Encourage students to use, as Heaney does, specific, vivid images to support the comparison they make.





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Grades   6 – 8  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Using Classic Poetry to Challenge and Enrich Students' Writing

This lesson sets poetry in motion when students experiment with poetic styles to improve their writing skills and enhance their understanding of poetry.


Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Thinking Inductively: A Close Reading of Seamus Heaney's "Blackberry Picking"

This lesson eases students' fear of interpreting complex poetry by teaching them a strategy with which they determine patterns of imagery, diction, and figurative language in order to unlock meaning.


Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Reading Literature in Translation: Beowulf as a Case Study

Using several translations of the same passage of Beowulf, this lesson introduces students to the idea that translation is not an objective practice, but that it involves "imaginative reconstruction."


Grades   11 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

An Introduction to Beowulf: Language and Poetics

Students are introduced to Old English and the poetic devices of alliteration, kenning, and compounding in preparation for reading the epic poem Beowulf.


Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Writing about Writing: An Extended Metaphor Assignment

After discussing the poem "The Writer" by Richard Wilbur, students analyze their own writing habits and create an extended metaphor describing themselves as writers.