The title of Seamus Heaney’s poem “From the Frontier of Writing” provides the first connotation as to what his following stanzas would be illustrating. As aggressive as it sounds the frontier paints a picture of war and struggle as to which can be seen through his lifetime. Heaney uses this image of war to create the concept of comparing the process a writer goes through to be published to the frontier of a war battle. We see this as a battle between two forces much like the battle being fought at the time between North and South Ireland.
The first image we see is that of someone driving through the frontier, this can be seen as the representation of how Heaney feels when his work is being put through the motion of publishing. As said in the first stanza "when the car stops in the road, the troops inspect its make and number," this is a metaphor as to how one would critique any artists work, how many make the purpose of reading to look closely at the work, picking it apart to find the literal and metaphoric meanings like the in-depth inspection like a cautious soldier on the frontier at the sight of new or unknown entities.
From the second stanza we see Heaney’s deliberate reference to that of the critics, “you catch sight of more on a hill beyond, eyeing with intent” by noticing such, there is a feeling of apprehension, and the concern is raised while waiting to be probed by the awaiting critic. Seen in the second stanza is the phrase “cradled guns.” An oxymoron as the word cradled connects to the images of birth, nurturing, motherhood and infancy. However, the word gun itself brings images of death, destruction and the most potent being war itself. In whole, this stanza emphasizes the images of the many tensions a writer goes through for their work to be published. As they fight for their literal and figurative ‘child’ to be allowed into the world.
The phrase heading into the third stanza “that hold you under cover and everything is pure interrogation,” describes the anxiety of the interviews and way writers have to validate their work. However, in validating the writers work the oxymoron “move with guarded unconcerned acceleration” shows how a writer in the midst of this supposed war must beguile an ambiguous front to take criticism with tact. The imagery in the third and fourth stanza’s use the wordings of war and fear “with guarded unconcerned acceleration” to aptly describe the various checkpoints a writer must cross in the stages of publishing, continuing on to “drive on to the frontier of writing. As done by publishers and critics, they interrogate work as a troop interrogates those passing through the frontier. This creates the very fight between the writer and publisher, whom both share many of the same traits and skills yet are very different at the same time just like the difference of the North and South.
The fourth stanza portrays the writers overall fear of writing in general. “[A] little emptier, a little spent...