Seamus Heaney

About Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney (13 April 1939, Castledawson - 30 August 2013, Dublin) was an Irish poet highly regarded for a poetry that combines the sensual evocation of nature and the Celtic setting with the desperate violence of the current political situation in Northern Ireland. He is considered one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century and the greatest contemporary representative of the Irish poetic renaissance. He has lived between Ireland and the United States, where he has taught at Harvard University since 1984. In all of Heaney's works, the events linked to the problem of Irish independence are prominent. His poetics are linked to his land, to the political life of the country. As he wrote in the poem Digging, the poet will use the pen as his grandfather and father used the spade. Heaney's poetry, of elegiac inspiration, seeks to play on the clash of opposites: praise of a gentle and fascinating nature and the brutality of the political situation evoked; clarity and suppleness of poetic language and roughness of references to reality. From his two first poetry collections Death of a Naturalist (1966) and Door into the Dark (1969), Heaney proclaims his Irish identity but represents it as a painful and torn entity. In his poems, the search for balance seems undermined by the tragic observation of the vanity of the world. This void is made even more oppressive by the evocation of the dead who haunt Irish history and the spirit of the poet: that of the victims of the attacks mentioned in particular in his collection Field Work, (1979) and also that of the mother. For Heaney, poetic composition is a Herculean effort because it wrests original visions from the earth and escapes the deceptive aspects of the world. His poetry, in this sense, wants to be far from any abstraction and any rationalism.
In 1957, where he studied English language and literature at Queen's University, and during an educational course he met the writer Michael MacLaverty, who introduced him to the poetry of Patrick Kavanagh. It was at this time, from 1962, that Heaney began to publish poems. In 1963, Philip Hobsbaum, a professor at Queen's University, formed a group of young local poets, as he had done previously in London, which brought Heaney to meet other Belfast poets like Derek Mahon and Michael Longley. In 1966, Faber and Faber published his first volume of poems, Death of a Naturalist. This collection, very well received, earned him numerous awards. The same year he was appointed lecturer (reader) at Queen's University, where he remained until 1972. Heaney's life was then divided between teaching and writing.
In 1983, he co-founded, with Brian Friel and Stephen Rea, the theater company Field Day. In 1989, he held the chair of poetry at Oxford University, a position he held until 1994. His public readings always meet with the same success. In 1990, Heaney published The Cure At Troy, a play based on the legend of Troy which was widely and critically acclaimed.
In 1995, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for his singular work, characterized by its lyrical beauty and its ethical depth which brings out the miracles of everyday life and the living past. Heaney becomes the fourth Irish author to receive this distinction after William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett. The Spirit Level, published in 1997, won the Whitbread Book of the Year award, a performance repeated with the publication of Beowulf: A New Translation in 1999. In 2006, Heaney published a new collection of poems, District and Circle.
He died on August 30, 2013. His funeral took place on September 2 at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Dublin in the presence of many admirers and personalities including the President of the Irish Republic.

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