How divisions in Northern Ireland affected Seamus Heaney's use of language. One of his poems came to be used as IRA propaganda. Heaney explains how writing poetry in a divided Northern Ireland meant he had to be careful, so as not to exacerbate a sensitive situation. People in the region at that time were self-conscious about particular word-use, even within otherwise innocuous language. The clip contains an excerpt from 'Requiem for the Croppies', a poem celebrating the Irish rebellion of 1798, and Heaney explains how this poem came to be used for IRA propaganda.
Can be used to stimulate discussion points and explore how texts express multiple meanings. Students can listen and identify three points Heaney makes about poetry and language (eg the idea of ‘stealth’ in language, the ‘myth of belonging’, and how the meaning of his poem began ‘slipping’). In groups, they can try and understand what these ideas might mean before researching the two contexts that influence the poem, the rebellion of 1798 and the Irish civil rights and republican movements of the 1960s. They can then use the poem to account for the different positions taken by Heaney and the IRA and stage a debate, arguing for different interpretations of the text.