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Seamus Heaney Trivia

Seamus Heaney Trivia Quizzes

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The Irish poet Seamus Heaney won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995, "for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past" (cited in the press release announcing his win).
3 Seamus Heaney quizzes and 30 Seamus Heaney trivia questions.
  Seamus Heaney - "The Haw Lantern" (1987)   top quiz  
Multiple Choice
 10 Qns
This is a quiz on the Irish poet Seamus Heaney's collection of poems, "The Haw Lantern" which was published in 1987. My first quiz on Heaney was far more difficult than I intended it to be, and so I have tried to make this one a little easier. Good luck.
Average, 10 Qns, poshprice, Dec 22 08
196 plays
  Seamus Heaney - from "Wintering Out" (1972)   popular trivia quiz  
Multiple Choice
 10 Qns
This is a quiz on the Irish poet Seamus Heaney's collection of poems, "Wintering Out" which was published in 1972.
Average, 10 Qns, poshprice, Jul 15 08
193 plays
  Seamus Heaney: Nobel Prize-winning Irish Poet    
Multiple Choice
 10 Qns
Seamus Heaney is the greatest living Irish poet. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995. How much do you know about his poetry?
Tough, 10 Qns, littlewoman2, Jul 15 08
360 plays
Related Topics
  Irish Literature [Literature] (4 quizzes)

  Poetry [Literature] (160 quizzes)

Seamus Heaney Trivia Questions

1. The poem, "From the Frontier of Writing", describes "armour-plated vehicles", "guns on tripods", and a "sergeant with his on-off mike repeating/ data about you". What frightening experience is Seamus Heaney describing in this particular poem?

From Quiz
Seamus Heaney - "The Haw Lantern" (1987)

Answer: The experience of being stopped by armed police at a checkpoint.

"From the Frontier of Writing" does indeed describe the frightening experience of being stopped by armed police at a checkpoint. As Heaney's "car stops in the road", and "the troops inspect its make and number", the fear is palpable. Everything "is pure interrogation", as even the innocent are questioned and made to feel ill at ease. Even when the "rifle motions" to signify clearance, Heaney describes himself as "a little emptier", and "a little spent". For even he has experienced a little doubt, and a "quiver in the self", which makes him feel like a prisoner on trial, who has been freed. Arraigned "yet freed", he is only too aware of the fact that everyone is under suspicion in this state. It is also possible to compare the waiting for clearance at a checkpoint with the poet's anticipation of critical clearance.

2. In Northern Ireland, what does the phrase "to winter out" mean?

From Quiz Seamus Heaney - from "Wintering Out" (1972)

Answer: to see through and survive a crisis.

Seamus Heaney has always been perceived as quite a 'political' poet and it is therefore no surprise that some readers of poetry and critics alike often approach his poems with the sole intention of "discovering" some political undertone. But it has to said that each of his poems can also be enjoyed without such single-minded analysis. Therefore while "Wintering Out" may indeed refer to the Troubles of Northern Ireland, the poems that make up this particular collection can also stand alone, to be judged on their own merit.

3. Which poem talks about frogspawn?

From Quiz Seamus Heaney: Nobel Prize-winning Irish Poet

Answer: Death of a Naturalist

"Death of a Naturalist" is from Heaney's first book of poems, published in 1966 with the same title.

4. In the poem, "The Haw Lantern", the "roaming shape of Diogenes/ with his lantern" is an important image. What exactly is Diogenes looking for?

From Quiz Seamus Heaney - "The Haw Lantern" (1987)

Answer: An honest man.

Legend has it that Diogenes, (sometimes referred to as 'Diogenes the Cynic'), roamed the streets of Athens searching for an honest man, in what he deemed to be a corrupt society. In the title poem of this collection, "The Haw Lantern", Heaney uses the image of Diogenes to emphasise the fact that there is little hope of finding such a man in Northern Ireland, due to its dismal political climate.

5. In the poem "Bog Oak", which English Renaissance poet is directly referred to by name?

From Quiz Seamus Heaney - from "Wintering Out" (1972)

Answer: Edmund Spenser.

Seamus Heaney's "Bog Oak" continues themes explored in previous publications - that Ireland's bogland is museum-like in that each layer reveals something about the history of the country. In this respect, Heaney's reference to Edmund Spenser is far from complimentary. Most of us know Edmund Spenser as the acclaimed author of "The Faerie Queen", when in fact he was also a cold oppressor of Ireland. When referring to Spenser in "Bog Oak", Heaney's words seem sarcastic. He describes Spenser's administrative ideals as "dreaming sunlight". Sunlight of course, has no substance, and the implication here is that Spenser's ideals had no substance either.

6. Which poem makes reference to Bluebeard, the legendary wife-killer?

From Quiz Seamus Heaney: Nobel Prize-winning Irish Poet

Answer: Blackberry-Picking

"Blackberry-Picking" overflows with imagery of lust, color, and zest as it describes the confusion of adolescence. It's one of my favorite Heaney poems.

7. What does the word "Anahorish", (which is also incidentally the title of one of Heaney's poems), mean?

From Quiz Seamus Heaney - from "Wintering Out" (1972)

Answer: place of clear water.

"Anahorish" is the first of Seamus Heaney's place name poems, otherwise known as 'dinnshenchas' - poems in which names are an evocation of place. It is a poem that just has to be read aloud in order to be able to appreciate its brilliance.

8. What significant event does the narrator attend in "Mid-term Break"?

From Quiz Seamus Heaney: Nobel Prize-winning Irish Poet

Answer: The funeral of his four-year-old sibling

"Mid-term Break" is a beautiful and understated meditation on grief and loss.

9. In the poem, "The Spoonbait", Heaney seems to compare the soul to spoon bait. What exactly is spoon bait?

From Quiz Seamus Heaney - "The Haw Lantern" (1987)

Answer: A silvery spoon-like metal attached to bait in order to attract fish.

In "The Spoonbait", Heaney does indeed seem to compare the soul with bait used to catch fish. Spoon bait is a silvery spoon-like metal attached to bait in order to attract fish, and is bright and more attractive than usual bait. In the poem, the spoon bait is described as a child's treasure, hidden beneath "the sliding lid of a pencil case". Similarly, the soul is a treasure which is kept within the "safe" confines of the body. "Risen and free", the soul cannot be pinned down, like the relative freedom of the spoon bait as it is cast across the water. The soul is full of contradictions, and is sometimes a reward and sometimes a curse, as it "flees him" and " burns him all at once".

10. Which two religions does the poem "The Other Side" center around?

From Quiz Seamus Heaney - from "Wintering Out" (1972)

Answer: Catholicism and Protestantism.

The poem "The Other Side" is based on Heaney's own childhood memories of his Protestant neighbour, which highlight the difference between Catholic and Protestant. This is a poem which deals with the sense of awkwardness and mistrust between religious camps, and their inability to talk about important matters. Yet I feel, whenever I read this poem, that there is also a sense of longing, a longing to bridge this particular gap - which is felt keenly on both sides.

11. In which poem does Heaney NOT make reference to his father?

From Quiz Seamus Heaney: Nobel Prize-winning Irish Poet

Answer: The Barn

Heaney's father was a frequent topic, especially in his early poems. Heaney's narrator often simultaneously admired and clashed with his rural father.

12. In the poem "The Tollund Man", Heaney refers to a place called "Aarhus". In which country is Aarhus?

From Quiz Seamus Heaney - from "Wintering Out" (1972)

Answer: Denmark.

The poem "The Tollund Man" refers to a preserved body lifted from the bogs of Jutland - a body believed to have been placed there as an offering to the Norse goddess of fertility of the soil.

13. Which member of Heaney's family is commemorated in the sonnet sequence entitled "Clearances"?

From Quiz Seamus Heaney - "The Haw Lantern" (1987)

Answer: His mother.

"Clearances" is a series of sonnets written in memory of Heaney's mother. The title hints at the theme of the poems; they are are poems in which Heaney comes to terms with, or tidies up the relationship between himself and his mother. He also deals with the space in his life left empty by his mother's death.

14. In the poem "Limbo", there is an ongoing metaphor. What popular sport does this metaphor revolve around?

From Quiz Seamus Heaney - from "Wintering Out" (1972)

Answer: Fishing.

The word 'limbo' can mean an intermediate inactive state, but is also the hell of unbaptised babies - especially in the Catholic faith. In the poem "Limbo", the infant is likened to fish. It is caught by "Fishermen at Ballyshannon", along "with salmon". The rhythm and rhyme of this poem is almost comedic - almost limerick, which is at odds with its content. It takes a while to register the truth, that a baby has been caught in the nets along with the fish. The fact that this discovery could easily have been overlooked only serves to emphasis the idea that this child was unwanted.

15. In "Digging," what does the narrator take to his grandfather?

From Quiz Seamus Heaney: Nobel Prize-winning Irish Poet

Answer: Milk

The narrator reflects on his childhood, watching his father and grandfather digging down for the good turf. He states, "Once I carried him milk in a bottle/Corked sloppily with paper."

16. In "Clearances - 3", what are Heaney and his family member doing that leads him to declare that they were never "closer the whole rest of our lives"?

From Quiz Seamus Heaney - "The Haw Lantern" (1987)

Answer: Peeling potatoes.

In "Clearances - 3", Heaney has purposely stayed home from Mass in order to spend time with his mother. His need for her love is clear as he writes "I was all hers". Their awkward relationship is highlighted here, as it is the potatoes which break the silence, by creating "little splashes". The second part of this sonnet deals with the death of Heaney's mother, and whilst others find solace in religion, Heaney describes the last rites as being said "hammer and tongs". Rather than finding solace in religion here, Heaney is comforted by the memory of himself and his mother peeling potatoes, unified in chores.

17. In "Clearances - 8", what type of tree is used to represent Heaney's family member?

From Quiz Seamus Heaney - "The Haw Lantern" (1987)

Answer: A chestnut tree.

In "Clearances - 8", Heaney uses the image of a chestnut tree to represent his mother, and the idea of a space cleared and emptiness is explored. The cutting down of the tree is precise, as death is "accurate", and the sense of longing and pain is suggested by the "crack" and "sigh" of the falling tree. The death is described as "wreckage", and the tree and his mother's soul are frighteningly "forever/ Silent, beyond silence listened for".

18. What is the name of the poem that centers around a boy called Kevin Halfpenny, who Heaney refers to as "Little henhouse boy"?

From Quiz Seamus Heaney - from "Wintering Out" (1972)

Answer: Bye-Child.

"Bye-Child" is a poem that was inspired by a true story of a boy abandoned in a chicken shed by his mother. The details of this story are horrific and while Heaney's poem does not shy away from the horror of the poor boy's plight, it does in a way commemorate the child's tenacity and will to live.

19. In what poem does the narrator admit to being "the artful voyeur"?

From Quiz Seamus Heaney: Nobel Prize-winning Irish Poet

Answer: Punishment

"Punishment" is a captivating and horrific poem in which the narrator views the remains of a woman who was brutally sacrificed several hundred years ago. Her body was partially preserved in a bog and resurrected in the 20th century.

20. Which U.S state is Seamus Heaney remembering the journey to, in his poem "Westering"?

From Quiz Seamus Heaney - from "Wintering Out" (1972)

Answer: California.

In "Westering", Seamus Heaney remembers his journey from Ireland to America. There is a sense of ease in Heaney's journey and the framework of the poem helps to create this sense of freedom and relaxed leisureliness. Indeed it is quite fitting that "Westering" marks the end of "Wintering Out", as Heaney has "escaped" Ireland for the moment. He will of course come back to it again, in his next collection, "North".

21. Which poem begins with these lines: "Between my finger and my thumb / The squat pen rests; snug as a gun"?

From Quiz Seamus Heaney: Nobel Prize-winning Irish Poet

Answer: Digging

"Digging" is one of Heaney's earliest poems, and one of my favorites. Even though he admires his father and grandfather, he solidly establishes the differences between himself and his rural ancestors.

22. In "Clearances - 4", Heaney remembers his mother's obsession with keeping up appearances. How does she react to her son's increasing vocabulary and use of the correct grammar?

From Quiz Seamus Heaney - "The Haw Lantern" (1987)

Answer: She makes him hide his talent.

Heaney's mother certainly seems to have been a formidable character. Ironically, in "Clearances - 4" she takes pride in appearing uneducated. She chooses to "affect/ Inadequacy", rather than "betray/ The hampered and inadequate by too/ Well-adjusted a vocabulary". Moreover Heaney himself must also pretend inadequacy, despite knowing better, which results in keeping he and his mother "allied", but also "at bay".

23. In which poem does the narrator recall seeing his father "scatter-eyed and daunted, strange without his hat" after his father's horse and rig crashed into the river?

From Quiz Seamus Heaney: Nobel Prize-winning Irish Poet

Answer: Seeing Things

"Seeing Things" is from Heaney's book of poems of the same title, published in 1991.

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