Seamus Heaney


Seamus Heaney was born in 1939 and grew and grew up in the village of Bellaghy and attended seconday school at St Columb’s college in Derry. He went on to study English at Queen’s University Belfast, graduating with first class honours in 1961. After university Heaney taught at St Thomas’ secondary school, in west Belfast and during this period he published his first poems in 1962.

In 1965 he published his first volume of poetry, ‘Eleven Poems’, and this was followed in 1966 by the critically acclaimed ‘Death of a Naturalist’. In the same year he took a position of lecturer of Modern English Literature at Queen’s University. Heaney went on to hold a guest lectureship at the University of California and in 1976 took up the position of Head of English at Carysfort College in Dublin. During this period he continued to publish a series of critically praised books, including ‘Door into the Dark’ and ‘Field Work’.

In the 1980s he was elected to the Aosdána, the prestigious Irish Association for the Arts, and later received one of its highest honours, becoming a member of the Saoi (which translates as ‘wise one’). During this time he became a director of the highly influential Field Day Theatre Company which was established by Stephen Rae and Brian Friel. Internationally he held prestigious academic positions , including Poet in Residence and Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard University as well as being elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford University.

In 1995 Seamus Heaney won the Nobel Prize for Literature ‘for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past’. The presentation speech highlighted Heaney’s style, and his connection to the land and the countryside: ‘For Seamus Heaney, poetry, like the soil, is evidently something to be ploughed and turned over. The poet has little time for the Emerald Isle of the tourist brochures. For him Ireland is first and foremost The Bogland. “

During the nineties and into the new millennium, Heaney continued to produce significant work across a range of disciplines, from poetry such as ‘The Spirit Level’ and ‘District and Circle’, plays such as ‘The Cure at Troy’ through to translations of major historical works, such as ‘Beowulf’.

In later years he collaborated on innovative projects that crossed the boundaries of literature with other artforms. This included the development of a musical composition by Mohammed Fairouz that combined Heaney’s poetry with Arabic verse. His translation of medieval scots fables became the basis for a BBC animation ‘Five Fables’, produced by Flickerpix , narrated by Billy Connolly with music provided by Barry Douglas.

Seamus Heaney died on 30th August 2013, aged 74.


1966: Death of a Naturalist, Faber & Faber

1969: Door into the Dark, Faber & Faber

1972: Wintering Out, Faber & Faber

1975: North, Faber & Faber

1979: Field Work, Faber & Faber

1984: Station Island, Faber & Faber

1987: The Haw Lantern, Faber & Faber

1991: Seeing Things, Faber & Faber

1996: The Spirit Level, Faber & Faber

2001: Electric Light, Faber & Faber

2006: District and Circle, Faber & Faber

2010: Human Chain, Faber & Faber

Collected Poetry:

1980: Selected Poems 1965-1975, Faber & Faber

1990: New Selected Poems 1966-1987, Faber & Faber

1998: Opened Ground: Poems 1966-1996, Faber & Faber


1980: Preoccupations: Selected Prose 1968–1978, Faber & Faber

1988: The Government of the Tongue, Faber & Faber

1995: The Redress of Poetry: Oxford Lectures, Faber & Faber

2002: Finders Keepers: Selected Prose 1971–2001, Faber & Faber


1990: The Cure at Troy: A version of Sophocles’ Philoctetes, Field Day

2004: The Burial at Thebes: A version of Sophocles’ Antigone, Faber & Faber


1983: Sweeney Astray: A version from the Irish, Field Day

1992: Sweeney’s Flight (with Rachel Giese, photographer), Faber & Faber

1993: The Midnight Verdict: Translations from the Irish of Brian Merriman and from the Metamorphoses of Ovid, Gallery Press

1995: Laments, a cycle of Polish Renaissance elegies by Jan Kochanowski, translated with Stanisław Barańczak, Faber & Faber

1999: Beowulf, Faber & Faber

1999: Diary of One Who Vanished, a song cycle by Leoš Janáček of poems by Ozef Kalda, Faber & Faber

2002: Hallaig, Sorley MacLean Trust

2002: Arion, a poem by Alexander Pushkin, translated from the Russian, with a note by Olga Carlisle, Arion Press

2004: The Testament of Cresseid, Enitharmon Press

2004: Columcille The Scribe, The Royal Irish Academy

2009: The Testament of Cresseid & Seven Fables, Faber & Faber

2013: The Last Walk, Gallery Press