Seamus Heaney

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Nationality: Irish

Born: April 13, 1939

Born Place: Castledawson, United Kingdom

Died: August 30, 2013

Death Place: Blackrock Clinic, Dublin, Ireland

Gender: Male

Spouse: Marie Devlin (1965–2013)

Occupation: Poet, playwright, translator


Seamus Justin Heaney MRIA (13 April 1939 – 30 August 2013) was an Irish poet, playwright and translator. He received the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature. Among his best-known works is Death of a Naturalist (1966), his first major published volume. Heaney was recognised as one of the principal contributors to poetry during his lifetime. American poet Robert Lowell described him as “the most important Irish poet since Yeats”, and many others, including the academic John Sutherland, have said that he was “the greatest poet of our age”. Robert Pinsky has stated that “with his wonderful gift of eye and ear Heaney has the gift of the story-teller.” Upon his death in 2013, The Independent described him as “probably the best-known poet in the world”.

He was born in the townland of Tamniaran between Castledawson and Toomebridge, Northern Ireland. His family moved to nearby Bellaghy when he was a boy. He became a lecturer at St. Joseph’s College in Belfast in the early 1960s, after attending Queen’s University and began to publish poetry. He lived in Sandymount, Dublin, from 1976 until his death. He lived part-time in the United States from 1981 to 2006.

Heaney was a professor at Harvard from 1981 to 1997, and its Poet in Residence from 1988 to 2006. From 1989 to 1994, he was also the Professor of Poetry at Oxford. In 1996, was made a Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and in 1998 was bestowed the title Saoi of the Aosdána. Other awards that he received include the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize (1968), the E. M. Forster Award (1975), the PEN Translation Prize (1985), the Golden Wreath of Poetry (2001), the T. S. Eliot Prize (2006) and two Whitbread Prizes (1996 and 1999). In 2011, he was awarded the Griffin Poetry Prize and in 2012, a Lifetime Recognition Award from the Griffin Trust. His literary papers are held by the National Library of Ireland.

He is buried at the Cemetery of St Mary’s Church, Bellaghy, Northern Ireland. The headstone bears the epitaph “Walk on air against your better judgement”, from one of his poems, “The Gravel Walks”.


Heaney was born on 13 April 1939, at the family farmhouse called Mossbawn, between Castledawson and Toomebridge; he was the first of nine children. In 1953, his family moved to Bellaghy, a few miles away, which is now the family home. His father, Patrick Heaney (d. October 1986), was the eighth child of ten born to James and Sarah Heaney. 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, Margaret Kathleen McCann (1911–1984), who bore nine children, came from the McCann family. Her uncles and relations were employed in the local linen mill, and her aunt had worked as a maid for the mill owner’s family. Heaney commented that his parentage contained both the Ireland of the cattle-herding Gaelic past and the Ulster of the Industrial Revolution; he considered this to have been a significant tension in his background. Heaney attended Anahorish Primary School; when he was twelve years old, he won a scholarship to St Columb’s College, a Roman Catholic boarding school in Derry. Heaney’s younger brother, Christopher, was killed in a road accident while Heaney was studying at St Columb’s. The poems “Mid-Term Break” and “The Blackbird of Glanmore” are related to his brother’s death.

Heaney played football for Castledawson, the club in the area of his birth, as a boy, and did not change to Bellaghy when his family moved there.


Seamus Heaney died in the Blackrock Clinic in Dublin on 30 August 2013, aged 74, following a short illness. After a fall outside a restaurant in Dublin, he entered hospital for a medical procedure, but died at 7:30 the following morning before it took place. His funeral was held in Donnybrook, Dublin, on the morning of 2 September 2013, and he was buried in the evening at his home village of Bellaghy, in the same graveyard as his parents, young brother, and other family members. His son Michael revealed at the funeral mass that his father texted his final words, “Noli timere” (Latin: “Do not be afraid”), to his wife, Marie, minutes before he died.

His funeral was broadcast live the following day on RTÉ television and radio and was streamed internationally at RTÉ’s website. RTÉ Radio 1 Extra transmitted a continuous broadcast, from 8 a.m. to 9:15 p.m. on the day of the funeral, of his Collected Poems album, recorded by Heaney in 2009.His poetry collections sold out rapidly in Irish bookshops immediately following his death.


Poetry: main collections

  • 1966: Death of a Naturalist, Faber & Faber
  • 1969: Door into the Dark, Faber & Faber
  • 1972: Wintering Out, Faber & Faber
  • 1975: North, Faber & Faber
  • 1979: Field Work, Faber & Faber
  • 1984: Station Island, Faber & Faber
  • 1987: The Haw Lantern, Faber & Faber
  • 1991: Seeing Things, Faber & Faber
  • 1996: The Spirit Level, Faber & Faber
  • 2001: Electric Light, Faber & Faber
  • 2006: District and Circle, Faber & Faber
  • 2010: Human Chain, Faber & Faber

Poetry: selected editions1980: Selected Poems 1965–1975, Faber & Faber

  • 1990: New Selected Poems 1966–1987, Faber & Faber
  • 1998: Opened Ground: Poems 1966–1996, Faber & Faber
  • 2014: New Selected Poems 1988–2013, Faber & Faber
  • 2018: 100 Poems, 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

Prose: selected editions

  • 2002: Finders Keepers: Selected Prose 1971–2001, Faber & Faber


  • 1990: The Cure at Troy: A version of Sophocles’ Philoctetes, Field Day
  • 2004: The Burial at Thebes: A version of Sophocles’ Antigone, Faber & Faber


  • 1983: Sweeney Astray: A version from the Irish, Field Day
  • 1992: Sweeney’s Flight (with Rachel Giese, photographer), Faber & Faber
  • 1993: The Midnight Verdict: Translations from the Irish of Brian Merriman and from the Metamorphoses of Ovid, Gallery Press
  • 1995: Laments, a cycle of Polish Renaissance elegies by Jan Kochanowski, translated with Stanisław Barańczak, Faber & Faber
  • 1999: Beowulf: A New Verse Translation, Faber & Faber
  • 1999: Diary of One Who Vanished, a song cycle by Leoš Janáček of poems by Ozef Kalda, Faber & Faber
  • 2009: The Testament of Cresseid & Seven Fables, Faber & Faber
  • 2016: “Aeneid: Book VI”, Faber & Faber[110]

Limited editions and booklets (poetry, prose, and translations)

  • 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
  • 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
  • 1988: The Dark Wood, Colin Smythe
  • 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
  • 1996: Commencement Address, UNC Chapel Hill
  • 1997: Poet to Blacksmith, Pim Witteveen
  • 1997: An After Dinner Speech, Atlantic Foundation
  • 1998: Audenesque, Maeght
  • 1999: The Light of the Leaves, Bonnefant Press
  • 1999: Ballynahinch Lake, Sonzogni
  • 2001: Something to Write Home About, Flying Fox
  • 2001: Towers, Trees, Terrors, Università degli Studi di Urbino
  • 2002: The Whole Thing: on the Good of Poetry, The Recorder
  • 2002: Hope and History, Rhodes University
  • 2002: A Keen for the Coins, Lenoir Rhyne College
  • 2002: Hallaig, Sorley MacLean Trust
  • 2002: Arion, a poem by Alexander Pushkin, translated from the Russian, with a note by Olga Carlisle, Arion Press
  • 2003: Eclogues in Extremis, Royal Irish Academy
  • 2003: Squarings, Arion Press
  • 2004: Anything can Happen, Town House Publishers
  • 2004: Room to Rhyme, University of Dundee
  • 2004: The Testament of Cresseid, Enitharmon Press
  • 2004: Columcille The Scribe, The Royal Irish Academy
  • 2005: A Tribute to Michael McLaverty, Linen Hall Library
  • 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
  • 2010: Writer & Righter, Irish Human Rights Commission
  • 2012: Stone From Delphi, Arion Press
  • 2013: The Last Walk, Gallery Press
  • 2019: My Yeats, Yeats Society Sligo


  • 1966 Eric Gregory Award
  • 1967 Cholmondeley Award
  • 1968 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize
  • 1975 E. M. Forster Award
  • 1975 Duff Cooper Memorial Prize
  • 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature
  • 1996 Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
  • 1997 Elected Saoi of Aosdána
  • 1998 St. Louis Literary Award from the Saint Louis University Library Associates
  • 2001 Golden Wreath of Poetry, given by Struga Poetry Evenings for life achievement in the field of poetry
  • 2004 Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement
  • 2005 Irish PEN Award[121]
  • 2006 T. S. Eliot Prize for District and Circle
  • 2007 Poetry Now Award for District and Circle
  • 2009 David Cohen Prize
  • 2011 Poetry Now Award for Human Chain
  • 2011 Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 2012 Griffin Poetry Prize, Lifetime Recognition Award

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 4 July 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.


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