Seamus Heaney: Relevant background details
Heaney’s work often deals with the local surroundings of Northern Ireland. His poetry makes profound observations on the small details of everyday life. Some of his early poems shed light on rural life in Ireland in the 1940s and 1950s. Poems such as At a Potato Digging address important lessons of history. Heaney also refers to local Irish people and traditional trades from the early 20th century.
An Advancement of Learning and Blackberry-Picking concern his personal history. Despite the inherently Irish and rural dimension of his language, Heaney is a universal poet. His influence on contemporary poetry is immense. Robert Lowell called him ‘the most important Irish poet since Yeats’.
Thomas Hardy: Relevant background details
Thomas Hardy (1840–1928) was an English novelist and poet. Hardy’s poetry was first published when he was in his fifties. His work has had a significant influence on modern English poetry.
There are autobiographical links in evidence in his poetry. His father worked as a stonemason and builder. Hardy himself trained as an architect. He married Emma Lavinia Gifford in 1874. Although the two later became estranged, he was traumatised by her death in 1912. In 1914 he married his secretary, who was 39 years his junior. Despite this, he remained consumed with remorse over his first wife and tried to overcome this by writing poetry.
Most of his poems deal with themes such as disappointment in life and love, as in Overlooking the River Stour, as well as the hardships of rural life.