Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: British, Irish, & Commonwealth Poets)
Seamus Justin Heaney was born into a Roman Catholic farming family in rural Country Derry, Northern Ireland (Ulster), the predominantly Protestant and industrial province of the United Kingdom on the island of Ireland. Much of his boyhood was spent on a farm, one border of which was formed by a stream that also divided Ulster from Eire, the predominantly Catholic Republic of Ireland. As a schoolboy, he won scholarships, first at the age of eleven to St. Colomb’s College, a Catholic preparatory school, and then to Queen’s University, Belfast, from which he graduated in 1961 with a first class honors degree in English. There he joined a group of young poets working under the direction of creative writers on the faculty.
He began his professional career as a secondary school English teacher, after which he went into teacher education, eventually joining the English faculty of Queen’s in 1966. In 1965, he married Marie Devlin; they would have two sons and a daughter. When civil dissension broke out in Ulster in 1969, eventually leading to martial law, Heaney, as a Catholic-reared poet, became increasingly uncomfortable. In 1972, he relocated to a manor in the Eire countryside to write full time, although he also became a faculty member of a college in Dublin. Beginning in 1979, he adopted the practice of accepting academic appointments at various American universities and spending the rest of the year in Dublin. In 1986, he was appointed Boylston...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Seamus Heaney (HEE-nee), the eldest of nine children, was born on his Catholic parents’ farm in County Derry, Northern Ireland, on April 13, 1939. On his father’s side of the family were cattle dealers; on his mother’s were mill workers. Heaney would break with both family traditions and embrace a different line of work as a man of letters, but his rural ancestry and the landscapes of his childhood would provide rich fodder for his poetry. The rural-industrial divide between his parents further revealed itself in their speech patterns. In his childhood, Heaney felt torn between his loquacious mother and his reticent father, a tension sustained in the adult poet’s style of writing. A second tension was manifest in County Derry where Heaney was reared. Differences in practices and beliefs among Catholic and Protestant neighbors were apparent to the boy at an early age, despite generally peaceful relations between the local sects in the 1940’s and 1950’s. This experience, too, would provide material for future poetry.
The young scholar attended local grammar schools near Mossbawn, the name accorded the family farm. When Heaney was twelve, a scholarship replaced farm labor with academic pursuits, and he left home to attend St. Columbs College, a boarding school in Derry. His inaugural poem “Digging,” published in Death of a Naturalist...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Seamus Heaney follows in the footsteps of William Butler Yeats, the premier Irish poet, with whom Heaney is frequently ranked and compared. Heaney was born the same year Yeats died, 1939, and some critics view this happenstance as a symbolic passing of the poetic torch in Ireland. As a modern-day Yeats, Heaney still wrestles with questions that plagued his compatriot a century earlier. Does poetry matter in a violence-ridden world? What responsibility does the poet share for the despair that ensnares so many people in his or her country? Heaney avoids definite answers to these questions; instead he chronicles personal events and experiences in poems that comprise a microcosm of Irish life in the latter half of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first.
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Seamus Justin Heaney (HEE-nee) is widely regarded as the greatest Irish poet since William Butler Yeats, and indeed as one of the foremost contemporary poets in the English language. In 1995 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
He was born in 1939 to a farming family in rural County Derry, Northern Ireland, a background which dominates his early poetry and which continues to inform both his poetry and his critical sensibility. He was schooled in nearby Anahorish and at a boarding school, St. Columb’s College, in Derry. In 1961 he earned his B.A. in English at Queens University, Belfast, and did postgraduate work at Belfast’s St. Joseph’s College of Education, where he also lectured from 1963 to 1966.
Since his undergraduate years, when Heaney began publishing poems and stories in university magazines, his poetic and academic careers have followed parallel courses in honor and achievement. A year after he published the pamphlet 11 Poems in Belfast, his first full collection, Death of a Naturalist, appeared to general critical acclaim, and Heaney began a six-year term as lecturer at Queen’s University in Belfast. He was guest lecturer in English literature at the University of California at Berkeley for 1971-1972, and by the time his fifth volume, Field Work, was published in 1979, he had been...
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Heaney is generally regarded as one of Ireland's preeminent poets of the late twentieth century. His verse frequently centers on the role poets play in society, with poems addressing issues of politics and culture, as well as inner-directed themes of self-discovery and spiritual growth. These topics are unified by Heaney's Irish sensibilities and his interest in preserving his country's history. Using language that ranges from, and often mixes, sexual metaphor and natural imagery, Heaney examines Irish life as it relates to the past and, also, as it ties into the larger context of human existence. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1995 for, as the Swedish Academy noted in its press release, "works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past."
Heaney was born in 1939 in Mossbawn, County Derry, Ireland. The eldest of nine children, he was raised as a Roman Catholic and grew up in the rural environment of his father's farm. Upon receipt of a scholarship, he began studies at Saint Columb's College in Northern Ireland and subsequently attended Queen's University in Belfast. It was at Queen's University that he became familiar with various forms of Irish, English, and American literature, most notably the work of poets such as Ted Hughes, Patrick Kavanagh, and Robert Frost. Like these poets, Heaney would draw upon childhood memories and past experience in his works. Using the pseudonym Incertus, Heaney...
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Seamus Heaney was born in Mossbawn, in County Derry, in Northern Ireland on April 13, 1939, the same year that Irish poet William Butler Yeats died. This coincidence has been noted by many critics, who often compare Heaney’s poetry with that of Yeats. Although he was born Catholic in predominantly Protestant Northern Ireland, the 1947 Education Act gave Heaney—along with other Northern Catholics—the opportunity to pursue secondary education that had been previously closed to them. When he was eleven years old, Heaney received a scholarship to study at Saint Columb’s College in Derry (also known as Londonderry). In 1957, Heaney attended Queen’s University in Belfast, where he received a bachelor of arts degree in 1961—with First Class Honors in English. The following year, after a year of postgraduate study, Heaney was awarded his teaching certificate from the St. Joseph’s College of Education in Belfast.
While he was in college, Heaney contributed his first poems to his university literary magazines, under a pseudonym. Later, during his first years of teaching at St. Thomas’s Secondary School in Ballymurphy, Belfast (1962–1963) and St. Joseph’s College (1963–1966), Heaney had a number of his poems published in various periodicals. His poetry attracted the attention of Faber and Faber, a British publisher, and the one who would end up producing many of Heaney’s volumes. Heaney’s first major volume of poetry, Death of a...
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