The Full Wiki

Seamus Heaney: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Seamus Heaney

Include this on your site/blog:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Séamus Heaney

Heaney addresses the Law Society (University College Dublin), 2009
Born 13 April 1939 (1939-04-13) (age 70)
In Bellaghy, Northern Ireland
Occupation Poet
Period 1966–present
Notable award(s) Nobel Prize in Literature
Golden Wreath of Struga Poetry Evenings

Seamus Heaney (pronounced /ˈʃeɪməs ˈhiːni/) (born 13 April 1939 [1]) is an Irish poet, writer and lecturer who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995. He currently lives in Dublin.[2]


Early life

Heaney was born on 13 April 1939 into a family of nine children at the family farmhouse called Mossbawn, between Castledawson and Toomebridge in Northern Ireland. In 1953, his family moved to Bellaghy, a few miles away, which is now the family home. His father, Patrick Heaney, a local of Castledawson, was the eighth child of ten born to James and Sarah Heaney. [3] Patrick was a farmer but his real commitment was to cattle-dealing, to which he was introduced by the uncles who had cared for him after the early death of his own parents. Heaney's mother came from the McCann family, whose uncles and relations were employed in the local linen mill and whose aunt had worked as a maid to the mill owners' family. The poet has commented on the fact that his parentage thus contains both the Ireland of the cattle-herding Gaelic past and the Ulster of the Industrial Revolution; he considers this to have been a significant tension in his background.[4]

Heaney initially attended Anahorish Primary School and when he was twelve-years-old, he won a scholarship to St. Columb's College, a Catholic boarding school situated in Derry. Heaney's brother, Christopher, was killed in a road accident at the age of four (while Heaney was studying at St. Columb's). Heaney wrote two poems reflecting on the death of Christopher:


In 1957, Heaney travelled to Belfast to study English Language and Literature at the Queen's University of Belfast. During his time in Belfast he found a copy of Ted Hughes' Lupercal, which spurred him to write poetry. "Suddenly, the matter of contemporary poetry was the material of my own life" he has said.[6] He graduated in 1961 with a First Class Honours degree. During teacher training at St Joseph's Teacher Training College in Belfast, he went on a placement to St Thomas' secondary Intermediate School in west Belfast. The headmaster of this school was the writer Michael MacLaverty from County Monaghan, who introduced Heaney to the poetry of Patrick Kavanagh. It was at this time that he first started to publish poetry, beginning in 1962. In 1963 he became a lecturer at St Joseph's. In the 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. Hobsbaum was to set up a Belfast Group of local young poets (to mirror the success he had with the London group) and this would bring Heaney into contact with other Belfast poets such as Derek Mahon and Michael Longley.

In August 1965 he married Marie Devlin, a school teacher and native of Ardboe, County Tyrone. (Devlin is a writer herself and, in 1994, published Over Nine Waves, a collection of traditional Irish myths and legends.) Heaney's first book, Eleven Poems, was published in November 1965 for the Queen's University Festival. In 1967, Faber and Faber published his first major volume, called Death of a Naturalist. This collection met with much critical acclaim and went on to win several awards. Also in 1966, he was appointed as a lecturer in Modern English Literature at Queen's University Belfast and his first son, Michael, was born. A second son, Christopher, was born in 1968. In 1968, with Michael Longley, Heaney took part in a reading tour called Room to Rhyme, which led to much exposure for the poet's work. In 1969, his second major volume, Door into the Dark, was published.

Seamus Heaney in 1970

After a spell as guest lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, he returned to Queen's University in 1971. In 1972, Heaney left his lectureship at Belfast and moved to Dublin in the Republic of Ireland, working as a teacher at Carysfort College. In 1972, Wintering Out was published, and over the next few years Heaney began to give readings throughout Ireland, Britain, and the United States. In 1975, Heaney published his fourth volume, North. He became Head of English at Carysfort College in Dublin in 1976. His next volume, Field Work, was published in 1979.

Selected Poems 1965-1975 and Preoccupations: Selected Prose 1968-1978 were published in 1980. When the Republic of Ireland established Aosdána, the national Irish Arts Council, in 1981, Heaney was among those elected into its first group (he was elected a Saoi, one of its five elder and its highest honor, in 1997). Also in 1981, he left Carysfort to become visiting professor at Harvard University. He was awarded two honorary doctorates, from Queen's University and from Fordham University in New York City (1982). At the Fordham commencement ceremony in 1982, Heaney delivered the commencement address in a 46-stanza poem entitled "Verses for a Fordham Commencement".

As he was born and educated in Northern Ireland, Heaney has felt the need to emphasise that he is Irish and not British. For example, he objected to his inclusion in the 1982 Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry by writing: "Be advised, my passport's green / No glass of ours was ever raised / To toast the Queen."

Following the success of the Field Day Theatre Company's production of Brian Friel's Translations, Heaney joined the company's expanded Board of Directors in 1981, when the company's founders Brian Friel and Stephen Rea decided to make the company a permanent group. In 1984, Heaney was elected to the Boylston Chair of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard. Later that year, his mother, Margaret Kathleen Heaney, died. His father, Patrick, died soon after publication of the 1987 volume, The Haw Lantern. In 1988, a collection of critical essays called The Government of the Tongue was published.

In 1989, he was elected Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford, which he held for a five-year term to 1994. The chair does not require residence in Oxford, and throughout this period he was dividing his time between Ireland and America. He also continued to give very popular public readings. In 1986, Heaney received a Litt.D. from Bates College. So well attended and keenly anticipated were these events that those who queued for tickets with such enthusiasm have sometimes been dubbed "Heaneyboppers", suggesting an almost pop-music fanaticism on the part of his supporters.[7]

In 1990, The Cure at Troy, a play based on Sophocles' Philoctetes,[8] was published to much acclaim. In 1991, Seeing Things was published. Heaney 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. He repeated that success with the release of Beowulf: A New Translation.[9]

In 1998, Heaney officially opened the library of Saint Catherine's College, Armagh.

In 2002, Heaney was awarded an honorary doctorate from Rhodes University and delivered a public lecture on "The Guttural Muse".[10]

In 2003, the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry was opened at Queens University, Belfast. It houses the Heaney Media Archive, a unique record of Heaney's entire oeuvre, along with a full catalogue of his radio and television presentations.[11] That same year Heaney decided to lodge a substantial portion of his literary archive at Emory University.[12] He also composed a poem called Beacons of Bealtaine for the 2004 EU Enlargement. The poem was read by Heaney at a ceremony for the twenty-five leaders of the enlarged European Union arranged by the Irish EU presidency.

In 2003, when asked if there was any figure in popular culture who aroused interest in poetry and lyrics, Heaney praised controversy-ridden rap artist Eminem for his verbal energy.[13][14]

There is this guy Eminem. He has created a sense of what is possible. He has sent a voltage around a generation. He has done this not just through his subversive attitude but also his verbal energy.

Heaney suffered a stroke from which he recovered in August 2006, but cancelled all public engagements for several months. [15] Heaney's latest volume of poetry, District and Circle, won the 2006 T. S. Eliot Prize.[16]

In 2008 Heaney became artist of honour in Østermarie, Denmark. Seamus Heaney Stræde was therefore named after him in the center of Bornholm, another green island. In February 2009, Heaney was presented with an Honorary-Life Membership award from the UCD Law Society, in recognition of his remarkable role as a literary figure.

Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney by Dennis O'Driscoll was published by Faber & Faber in 2008. It has been described as the nearest thing to an autobiography on the poet.

In 2009 he was awarded the David Cohen Prize for Literature.


Heaney's work often deals with the local surroundings: that is, his surroundings in Ireland, particularly in Northern Ireland, where he was born. Allusions to sectarian difference, widespread in Northern Ireland, can be found in his poems, but these are never predominant or strident. His poetry is not often overtly political or militant, and is far more concerned with profound observations of the small details of the everyday, far beyond contingent political concerns. Some of his work is concerned with the lessons of history, and indeed prehistory and the very ancient. Other works concern his personal family history, focusing on characters in his family and as he has acknowledged, these poems can be read as elegies for those family members. But primarily, his concern as a poet is with the English language, partly as it is spoken in Ireland but also as spoken elsewhere and in other times; the Anglo-Saxon influences in his work are noteworthy, and his academic studies of that language have had a profound effect on his work. Thanks to Heaney, there has been a minor revival of interest in the verse forms of Anglo-Saxon poetry amongst a number of poets influenced by him. He has also written critically well-regarded essays and two plays. His essays, among other things, have been credited with beginning the critical re-examination of Thomas Hardy. His anthologies (edited with friend Ted Hughes), The Rattle Bag and The School Bag, are used extensively in schools in the U.K. and elsewhere.

But despite the inherently Irish flavour of his language, Heaney is a universal poet. His influence on contemporary poetry is immense. Robert Lowell called him "the most important Irish poet since Yeats." A good many others have echoed the sentiment.[citation needed] His books make up two-thirds of the sales of living poets in the UK.[17]

Séamus and Marie Heaney at the Dominican Church, Kraków, Poland, 4 October 1996

Political view

Many of Heaney's poems contain an underlying implication of Heaney's political views. In Requiem for the Croppies Heaney says, the ‘barley grew up out of the grave' and in doing so reflects on how little nationalists in Ulster appreciate the martyrs who died for the cause. In the poems throughout his collection Wintering Out, Heaney embellishes this, particularly in Gifts of Rain. At first read the poem regards a simple river akin to the poem Broagh. However, in the line ‘I cock my ear / at an absence', Heaney refers to those who have died and have worked to unite Ireland without violence. He asks for help to go back in time to hear advice from those who have made a difference in uniting Ireland: ‘Soft voices of the dead are whispering by the shore'. The use of water as the central imagery throughout the poem, reflects the nature of being purged, coming out clean with a fresh beginning. Heaney's ability to be ‘firmly rooted in reality' is most clearly shown in each poem through his ability to connect everyday landscapes (such as the River Moyola) to the political situation in Ireland.


Poetry: main collections

Poetry: collected editions

  • 1980: Selected Poems 1965-1975, Faber & Faber
  • 1990: New Selected Poems 1966-1987, Faber & Faber
  • 1998: Opened Ground: Poems 1966-1996, Faber & Faber

Prose: main collections

  • 1980: Preoccupations: Selected Prose 1968-1978, Faber & Faber
  • 1988: The Government of the Tongue, Faber & Faber
  • 1995: The Redress of Poetry: Oxford Lectures, Faber & Faber
  • 2002: Finders Keepers: Selected Prose 1971-2001, Faber & Faber



Limited editions and booklets (poetry and prose)

  • 1965: Eleven Poems, Queen's University
  • 1968: The Island People, BBC
  • 1968: Room to Rhyme, Arts Council N.I.
  • 1969: A Lough Neagh Sequence, Phoenix
  • 1970: Night Drive, Gilbertson
  • 1970: A Boy Driving His Father to Confession, Sceptre Press
  • 1973: Explorations, BBC
  • 1975: Stations, Ulsterman Publications
  • 1975: Bog Poems, Rainbow Press
  • 1975: The Fire i' the Flint, Oxford University Press
  • 1976: Four Poems, Crannog Press
  • 1977: Glanmore Sonnets, Editions Monika Beck
  • 1977: In Their Element, Arts Council N.I.
  • 1978: Robert Lowell: A Memorial Address and an Elegy, Faber & Faber
  • 1978: The Makings of a Music, University of Liverpool
  • 1978: After Summer, Gallery Press
  • 1979: Hedge School, Janus Press
  • 1979: Ugolino, Carpenter Press
  • 1979: Gravities, Charlotte Press
  • 1979: A Family Album, Byron Press
  • 1980: Toome, National College of Art and Design
  • 1981: Sweeney Praises the Trees, Henry Pearson
  • 1982: A Personal Selection, Ulster Museum
  • 1982: Poems and a Memoir, Limited Editions Club
  • 1983: An Open Letter, Field Day
Seamus Heaney Centre, Queen's University, Belfast
  • 1983: Among Schoolchildren, Queen's University
  • 1984: Verses for a Fordham Commencement, Nadja Press
  • 1984: Hailstones, Gallery Press
  • 1985: From the Republic of Conscience, Amnesty International
  • 1985: Place and Displacement, Dove Cottage
  • 1985: Towards a Collaboration, Arts Council N.I.
  • 1986: Clearances, Cornamona Press
  • 1988: Readings in Contemporary Poetry, DIA Art Foundation
  • 1988: The Sounds of Rain, Emory University
  • 1989: An Upstairs Outlook, Linen Hall Library
  • 1989: The Place of Writing, Emory University
  • 1990: The Tree Clock, Linen Hall Library
  • 1991: Squarings, Hieroglyph Editions
  • 1992: Dylan the Durable, Bennington College
  • 1992: The Gravel Walks, Lenoir Rhyne College
  • 1992: The Golden Bough, Bonnefant Press
  • 1993: Keeping Going, Bow and Arrow Press
  • 1993: Joy or Night, University of Swansea
  • 1994: Extending the Alphabet, Memorial University of Newfoundland
  • 1994: Speranza in Reading, University of Tasmania
  • 1995: Oscar Wilde Dedication, Westminster Abbey
  • 1995: Charles Montgomery Monteith, All Souls College
  • 1995: Crediting Poetry: The Nobel Lecture, Gallery Press
  • 1997: Poet to Blacksmith, Pim Witteveen
  • 1998: Commencement Address, UNC Chapel Hill
  • 1998: Audenesque, Maeght
  • 1999: The Light of the Leaves, Bonnefant Press
  • 2001: Something to Write Home About, Flying Fox
  • 2002: Hope and History, Rhodes University
  • 2002: Ecologues in Extremis, Royal Irish Academy
  • 2002: A Keen for the Coins, Lenoir Rhyne College
  • 2003: Squarings, Arion Press
  • 2004: Anything can Happen, Town House Publishers
  • 2005: The Door Stands Open, Irish Writers Centre
  • 2005: A Shiver, Clutag Press
  • 2007: The Riverbank Field, Gallery Press
  • 2008: Articulations, Royal Irish Academy
  • 2008: One on a Side, Robert Frost Foundation
  • 2009: Spelling It Out, Gallery Press

About Heaney and his work

  • 1993: The Poetry of Seamus Heaney ed. by Elmer Andrews, ISBN 0-231-11926-7
  • 1993: Seamus Heaney: The Making of the Poet by Michael Parker, ISBN 0-333-47181-4
  • 1995: Critical essays on Seamus Heaney ed. by Robert F. Garratt, ISBN 0-7838-0004-5
  • 1998: The Poetry of Seamus Heaney: A Critical Study by Neil Corcoran, ISBN 0-571-17747-6
  • 2000: Seamus Heaney by Helen Vendler, ISBN 0-674-00205-9, Harvard University Press
  • 2007: Seamus Heaney and the Emblems of Hope by Karen Marguerite Moloney, ISBN 978-0-8262-1744-8
  • 2009: The Cambridge Companion to Seamus Heaney edited by Bernard O'Donoghue


See also

  • List of people on stamps of Ireland
  • Faber and Faber (Heaney's U.K. publisher)
  • 2007: Seamus Heaney: Creating Irelands of the Mind by Eugene O'Brien, Liffey Press, Dublin, ISBN 1-904148-02-6
  • 2004: Seamus Heaney Searches for Answers by Eugene O'Brien, Pluto Press: London, ISBN 0 7453 1734 0
  • 2003: Seamus Heaney and the Place of Writing by Eugene O'Brien, University Press of Florida, ISBN 0-8130-2582-6


  1. ^ "Biography of Irish Writer Seamus Heaney". Retrieved 20 February 2010. "Heaney was born on 13th. April 1939, the eldest of nine children at the family farm called Mossbawn in the Townland of Tamniarn near Castledawson, Northern Ireland,..." 
  2. ^ Heaney, Seamus (1998). Opened Ground. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. ISBN 0374526788. 
  3. ^ "A Note on Seamus Heaney". Retrieved 2009-04-20. "Seamus Heaney was born on 13 April 1939, the first child of Patrick and Margaret Kathleen Heaney (nee McCann), who then lived on a fifty-acre farm called Mossbawn, in the townland of Tamniarn, County Derry, Northern Ireland." 
  4. ^ Nobel Prize in Literature 1995 > Seamus Heaney Biography
  5. ^ Heaney, Seamus : Mid-Term Break
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Play Listing". Irish Playography. Irish Theatre Institute. Retrieved 2007-08-24. 
  9. ^ Beowulf: A New Translation
  10. ^ Rhodes Department of English Annual Report 2002-2003
  11. ^ Website
  12. ^ Press Release
  13. ^ Eminem - The Way I Am, autobiography, cover sheet
  14. ^
  15. ^ Today Programme, BBC Radio 4, 16 January 2007.
  16. ^ BBC News "Heaney wins TS Eliot poetry prize", 15 January 2007.
  17. ^ BBC News Magazine "Faces of the week", 19 January 2007.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Seamus Justin Heaney (born 1939-04-13) is a Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet, born and reared in Northern Ireland (in County Derry), and now living in Dublin. His books are said to account for two-thirds of the sales of living poets in Britain.



  • I rhyme
    To see myself, to set the darkness echoing.
    • "Personal Helicon", line 19, from Eleven Poems (1965).
  • The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
    Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
    Through living roots awaken in my head.
    But I've no spade to follow men like them.
    Between my finger and my thumb
    The squat pen rests.
    I'll dig with it.
  • God is a foreman with certain definite views
    Who orders life in shifts of work and leisure.
    • "Docker", line 10, from Death of a Naturalist.
  • Is there life before death? That's chalked up
    In Ballymurphy. Competence with pain,
    Coherent miseries, a bite and a sup,
    We hug our little destiny again.
    • "Whatever You Say Say Nothing", line 57, from North (1975).
  • History says don't hope
    On this side of the grave.
    But then, once in a lifetime
    The longed for tidal wave
    Of justice can rise up
    And hope and history rhyme.
    So hope for a great sea-change
    on the far side of revenge.
    Believe that a further shore
    is reachable from here.
    Believe in miracles
    and cures and healing wells.
    • "Doubletake", line 13, from The Cure at Troy (1990).[1]


  • För ett författarskap av lyrisk skönhet och etiskt djup, som lyfter fram vardagens mirakler och det levande förflutna.
    • For works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past.
    • Heaney's 1995 Nobel diploma. [1] [2]


External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Simple English

Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney (born April 13, 1939 in Bellaghy, Northern Ireland) won a Nobel Prize in 1995 for poetry.[1]


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address