"Necessary poetry touches the base of our sympathetic nature while taking in at the same time the unsympathetic nature of the world to which that nature is constantly exposed."
Co Derry, Northern Ireland
Queen's College, Belfast
Began his career as a lecturer in English; now holds several prestigious academic positions.
Did you know?
He wrote a few lines to explain his objection to inclusion in the 1982 Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry: 'Be advised, my passport's green/ No glass of ours was ever raised / To toast the Queen.'
Known proudly to all Ireland as "famous Seamus", in his 30-year career Heaney has moved from nature poetry to a brave and never easily redemptive engagement with the Irish conflict, finding through his bog people poems (see North) a way into the violence of history; he is a particularly illuminating reader of his own work. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995 "for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past".
Opened Ground: Selected Poems 1966-1996 is a well-chosen overview; North a pivotal collection. The Redress of Poetry, focusing on other Irish legends including Wilde and Yeats, is a poetic tour de force and an excellent critical work in its own right.
His first poetic passions were direct and representative, calling on Keats, Hopkins, Chaucer, Ted Hughes and Robert Frost; he was also struck by the moral force of Wilfred Owen.
Now read on
Heaney's influence is strongly felt in the younger Irish poets such as Paul Muldoon, Medbh McGuckian and Eavan Boland.
Seamus Heaney: The Making of the Poet by Michael Parker details his Catholic upbringing and the influence of Ulster's violent history.
Helen Vendler's Seamus Heaney explores his linguistic excellence as well as his political engagement.
Useful links and work online
· Extract: Burial at Thebes
· Grendel Strikes from Beowulf
· Heaney on WB Yeats
· Hear Heaney read a selection of poems
· Web resources on Seamus Heaney on the Nobel prize website