ENTRY: Heaney, Seamus.
Seamus Heaney (b. April 13, 1939)
is a poet, writer and lecturer. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995.
Seamus Justin Heaney was born near Castledawson, in County Londonderry, Northern Ireland.
He was brought up a Roman Catholic and a nationalist, and regards himself as Irish, not British.
He schooled at St. Columb's College, Londonderry, then went up to
Queen's University, Belfast. He graduated in 1961 with a First Class Honours degree.
After graduating he became a teacher. In spring of 1963, after
contributing various articles to local magazines, he came to the attention
of Philip Hobsbaum, then an English lecturer at Queen's University.
In 1965 he married Marie Devlin, teacher and author of
Over Nine Waves: a collection of traditional Irish myths and legends.
In 1966, Faber and Faber published his first volume called Death of a Naturalist.
This collection of deeply rural poems met with much critical acclaim. In
1966 he was appointed as a lecturer in Modern English Literature at Queen's
University Belfast. After sojourns in America, Heaney became Head of English at
Carysfort College in Dublin in 1976.
He took on numerous public posts, and also co-founded Field Day Publishing.
In 1989, he was elected to be Professor of Poetry at Oxford University,
which he held for a five-year term to 1994. Throughout this period
he was dividing his time between Ireland and America. He also
continued to give public readings, which were very popular.
He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995 for what the Nobel
committee described as "works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which
exalt everyday miracles and the living past".
In 1996, his collection, The Spirit Level was published and won The
Whitbread Book of the Year Award, a feat repeated in 1999 by his
re-translation of the epic Beowulf.
Despite his many travels much of his work is set in the landscapes of
rural Londonderry, the county of his childhood. Heaney's work is deeply associated with
the lessons of history and archaic prehistory and myth. The Anglo-Saxon influences
in his work are also noteworthy, his university study of the language
and his acclaimed translation of Beowulf having had a profound effect
on his work. It also led to a small revival of interest in the verse
forms of ancient Anglo-Saxon poetry amongst a number of poets influenced by Heaney.
His huge poetry anthologies (edited with friend the poet Ted Hughes)
The Rattle Bag and The School Bag are used extensively in schools
in the British Isles.
His influence on contemporary poetry is reckoned to be immense. Robert Lowell has called Heaney
"the most important Irish poet since Yeats". A good many
others have echoed the sentiment. His influence is not restricted to the British Isles but
is felt globally.
New Selected Poems 1966-1987 (1990)
Seeing Things (1991)
The Spirit Level (1996)
Opened Ground: Poems 1966-1996 (1998)
Electric Light (2001)
District and Circle (2006) Beowulf (1999) (Translation)
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