Robert Lowell and Seamus Heaney: An Apprenticeship

Poets as different as Gerard Manley Hopkins, D.H. Lawrence, Robert Frost, Patrick Kavanagh, and Dylan Thomas contributed to the making of Seamus Heaney’s early style, but Robert Lowell was the catalyst transforming those influences into something distinct. Before the transformation occurred, most of Heaney’s poems were derivative. “Song of My Man-Alive,” which he published in a 1961 issue of Gorgon shortly before graduating from Queen’s University, Belfast, demonstrated how his enchantment with another poet’s voice—in this case Dylan Thomas’s—could adulterate his own. Writing about a youthful romance in the country, Heaney sounded as if he were parodying the Welsh bard’s romantic rhetoric: