Poet Feature: Seamus Heaney
Thursday, April 13th, 2017
As part of our celebration of National Poetry Month, we're featuring the work of a wide variety of poets, including Seamus Heaney!
Born 1939 in Northern Ireland's County Londonderry, Heaney grew up a Catholic in predominantly Protestant Northern Ireland during the social and political upheaval known as the Troubles. This turbulent social landscape, as well as the natural world around him, served as the inspiration for much of his early poetry. His collection Death of a Naturalist was published in 1966, and became the first of many works of poetry.
Heaney was also known for his translations, most often of early works in Irish or Anglo-Saxon English. His translation of Beowulf garnered attention for his unconventional use of modern language to reinvigorate the ancient epic, all the while staying true to both the music of the language and the spirit it envoked.
Heaney taught at both Oxford and Harvard, continuing all the while to produce writing that received that rarest of combinations: both critical acclaim and popular support. He won, among others, a PEN Translation Prize in 1985, the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995, and the T. S. Elliot Prize in 2006. He was so prolific, and his works so popular, that in 2008, surveys showed that he'd written fully two thirds of all the poetry collections sold in the UK that year.
Heaney continued to write until his death in 2013. He was 74.