Biography of Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney is widely known as one of the most significant and influential poets of the 20th century. He was the first of nine children, born ‎on the 13th of April, 1939, in County Derry in Northern Ireland. His father was a farmer and a cattle dealer, while his mother's side of the family mostly worked in a local linen mill. As an eleven-year-old, Heaney won a scholarship to St. Columb's College. During his time at that school, one of his younger brothers was killed in an automobile accident. In 1957 he traveled to Belfast to study English at Queen's University Belfast, where he wrote poems that appeared in the school's literary magazines. He earned a teacher's certificate in English at St. Joseph's College in Belfast, and later he took a position as an English lecturer there.

While at St. Joseph’s he began to write, joining a poetry workshop with Derek Mahon, Michael Longley, and others under the guidance of Philip Hobsbaum. In 1965 he married Marie Devlin, and the following year he published Death of a Naturalist, his first poetry collection, which focused on the rural life of Northern Ireland. His later works, Wintering Out (1972) and North (1975), dealt with more contemporary topics. His final book, The Human Chain (2010), deals with themes such as loss, regret, and death.

Heaney died in August 2013. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995 and the Whitbread prize twice; he was made a Commandeur de L'Ordre des Arts et Lettres in 1996. His poems mimic natural speech, but their colloquial nature is balanced by Heaney's close attention to sound and his deep knowledge of poetic form.


Study Guides on Works by Seamus Heaney

"Bogland" appears in Seamus Heaney's second collection of poetry, Door Into The Dark (1969), which details Heaney's rural upbringing. "Bogland" is the final poem in the book, which is written with a great deal of attention devoted to evoking...

Seamus Heaney's poem "Death of a Naturalist" appears in a collection with the same name. Published in 1966, Death of a Naturalist is recognized as Seamus Heaney's first major volume, and it was well-received by critics, boosting Heaney's career...

“Mid-Term Break” is a poem by Seamus Heaney published in his very first collection of poetry titled Death of a Naturalist in 1966. Like most of the poems in that volume and many works of verse composed throughout his life, the subject matter deals...

Seamus Heaney was an Irish poet and Nobel Award winner who is often deemed as one of the best-known poets in the world. He indicated that poetry should not only be a reflection of reality but also have transformative quality.

The poem “Personal...

"Storm on the Island" is a poem by Irish poet Seamus Heaney, first published in his 1966 collection Death of a Naturalist. It has been interpreted as an allegory for political tensions in Northern Ireland, though it does not allude to these...