Bogland Essay Questions

  1. 1

    How does perspective in "Bogland" affect the poem?

    "Bogland" is written from the first-person plural perspective, and this allows readers an interesting point of access into the poem. We are immersed into the collective perspective, but also isolated from any first-person perspective. The poem feels detached from the idea of an individual, written almost as if in the voice of a chorus. It compares the history of Ireland to the history of America, and the detachment from a personal perspective makes this poem feels as if it is speaking for the country.

  2. 2

    How do the references to prairies and pioneers work in the poem?

    The poem's first stanza works to compare the Irish landscape to that of North America; the speaker thinks of the American frontier and the way that influenced the shape America takes in the imagination. The westward exploration of American frontiers is paralleled by the exploration of the bogs in Ireland, but this search is inward and downward rather than outward and forward. This movement toward the "bottomless" wet center of the country indicates futility, in comparison to the work of the pioneers.

  3. 3

    How does this poem characterize the bog?

    The bogs in this poem are characterized as a loving, almost feminine presence. The speaker describes "the ground itself" as "kind, black butter" yielding "underfoot." This language makes the bogs seem receptive to the people of the country. The speaker also says of the landscape, "Our unfenced country/Is bog that keeps crusting/Between the sights of the sun." This follows the description of a lake that compares it to a cyclops' eye. By linking the images of Ireland to images of eyes, the speaker anthropomorphizes the land and gives it its own perspective.

  4. 4

    How should we interpret the appearance of the cyclops and the Great Irish Elk in this poem?

    The cyclops and the Great Irish Elk are both taken from the collective memory of Ireland. Of course, the Great Irish Elk actually existed, while the cyclops is mythological. However, the use of both creatures indicates that the way the speaker perceives this country is through its past, not its present. The cyclops and the elk also are two creatures that both used to exist in some fashion, whether in nature or in a cultural legend, and no longer do. The country, it seems, is dwindling away.