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Seamus Heaney

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Seamus Heaney, a renowned playwright, poet and translator was born on 13th April 1939 in Ireland. His descent from a family that consisted of both the cattle herding Gaelic parentage and the industrial revolution Ulster background shaped his personality sparking within him an inner tension that gave birth to the poet in him. He gained his early education from ‘Anahorish Primary School’, winning a scholarship to St. Columb’s College at the age of twelve. He studied English Language and Literature from Queen’s University Belfast. ‘Lupercal’ a poetry work of Ted Hughes (an English poet) inspired him to start writing poetry himself. During a teachers training program Heaney had a close acquaintance with Mr. McLaverty who was the school’s headmaster. He introduced Heaney to poetry works of many famous poets.

Heaney’s poetry started being published in 1962 mostly in local magazines until Philip Hobsbaum, an English Lecturer at Queen’s University, started taking interest in Heaney’s work. Hobsbaum introduced him to some influential poets after which his first book ‘Eleven Poems’ was published in 1965. His first major volume was titled ‘Death of a Naturalist’ was it was published in 1966 by Faber and Faber, as was most of his work. This volume received immense acclamation winning several awards including the ‘Gregory Award for Young Writers’ and ‘Geoffrey Faber Prize’. During this time he taught at Queen’s University Belfast as a lecturer of Modern English Literature. His second work was published in 1969 and was called ‘Door into the Dark’.

Along with his poetry Seamus Heaney taught at various universities and colleges. In 1970 he was a guest lecturer at University of California. In 1972 he shifted to Dublin and taught at Carysfort College. Meanwhile he worked on ‘Wintering Out’ that got published in 1972 and ‘North’ which was his fourth volume got published in 1975. He took the post of visiting Professor at Harvard University in 1981. He became member of the permanent faculty in Harvard as Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory in 1985; a post he remained at till 1997. He was also a ‘Poet in Residence’ at Harvard from 1998 to 2006. Along with this position he was elected as the ‘Professor of Poetry’ at Oxford in 1989 till 1994.

Heaney’s poems include ‘Stations’ (1975), ‘Field Work’ (1979), ‘Station Island’ (1984), ‘The Haw Lantern’ (1987), ‘Seeing Things’ (1991), ‘The Spirit Level’ (1996), ‘Electric Light’ (2001), ‘District and Circle’ (2006) and ‘Human Chain’ (2010) which was his twelfth collection. His main collections (Prose) are ‘Preoccupations: Selected Prose (1980), ‘The Government of the Tongue’ (1988), ‘The Redress of Poetry: Oxford Lectures’ (1995) and ‘Finders Keepers’ (2002).

Seamus Heaney is one of the most recognized and appreciated Irish writers of all time. He has received many honorary doctorates and awards. He was given the ‘Whitbread Book of the Year Award’ for his 1996 offering ‘The Spirit Level’. ‘District and Circle’ won the ‘T.S Eliot Prize’ in 2006 and ‘Human Chain’ received the ‘Forward Prize for The Best Collection’. ‘The Observer’ titled him as ‘Britain’s top 300 intellectuals’ in 2011. Heaney’s work makes up two thirds of the book sales of living poets. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1995 for, as worded by the Nobel Committee ‘works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past’.

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