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Seamus Heaney - Great Irish Poet Dies

"Between my finger and my thumb, The squat pen rests. I'll dig with it."
Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)

Recognised by many people worldwide as the best Irish poet since Yeats, and studied by most school children in Ireland, Heaney began his career as a teacher before embarking on the career in poetry that led to him winning the Nobel prize for literature in 1995.

The Nobel prize-winner was born in April 1939, eldest of nine children, on a farm called Mossbawn near Bellaghy in Co Derry, Northern Ireland.

"Let whoever can, win glory before death"

His world renowned poetry first came to public attention in the mid-1960s with his first major collection, Death Of A Naturalist, published in 1966.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny quite rightly stated that "He belongs with Joyce, Yeats, Shaw and Beckett in the pantheon of our greatest literary exponents."

Heaney was made an honorary fellow at Trinity College Dublin and just last year was bestowed with the Seamus Heaney Professorship in Irish Writing at the university.

Notable awards:

  • 1995 Nobel Prize for Literature 
  • PEN Translation Prize (1985) for his translation of Sweeney Astray from Irish into English
  • Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize (1968)
  • E. M. Forster Award (1975)
  • PEN Translation Prize (1985) 
  • Golden Wreath of Poetry (2001) 
  • T. S. Eliot Prize (2006) 
  • 2 x Whitbread Prizes (1996 and 1999)
  • He was both the Harvard and the Oxford Professor of Poetry and was made a Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres in 1996. 
  • Lifetime Recognition Award from the Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry

Random Fact: Former US President Bill Clinton apparently loves Heaney's poetry so much he called his dog 'Seamus'.

  • Death of a Naturalist, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1966.
  • Door into the Dark, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1969.
  • Wintering Out, Faber (London), 1972, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1973.
  • North, Faber, 1975, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1976.
  • Field Work, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1979.
  • Poems: 1965-1975, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1980.
  • (Adapter) Sweeney Astray: A Version from the Irish, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1984, revised edition, with photographs by Rachel Giese, published as Sweeney's Flight, 1992.
  • Station Island, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1984.
  • The Haw Lantern, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1987.
  • New and Selected Poems, 1969-1987, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1990, revised edition published as Selected Poems, 1966-1987, 1991.
  • Seeing Things: Poems, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1991.
  • The Midnight Verdict, Gallery Books (Old Castle, County Meath, Ireland), 1993.
  • The Spirit Level, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1996.
  • Opened Ground: Selected Poems, 1966-1996, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1998.
  • Electric Light, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2001.
  • District and Circle, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2006.
  • Contributor to 101 Poems Against War, edited by Matthew Hollis and Paul Keegan, Faber and Faber (London, England), 2003.

Jennifer Muldowney
Jennifer Muldowney