Biography

Wikipedia: Seamus Heaney Biography
A detailed up-to-date biography.

Nobel Prize: Seamus Heaney Biography
This biography was written at the time of the Nobel Prize Award (1995) and later published in the book series: Les Prix Nobel/Nobel Lectures.

Biography: Seamus Heaney
A useful detailed biography on the Internet Poetry Archive.


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Year by Year
Read downwards for a year by year account of the poets life


1939

Seamus Heaney, the eldest of nine children, is born at the family farmhouse, called Mossbawn, near Castledawson, County Derry.

He grows up on his father's cattle farm. His father also works as a cattle dealer.


1953

After an initial education at Anahorish Primary School, Seamus Heaney wins a scholarship to St Columb's College, then a Catholic boarding school in the city of Derry.

His four-year old brother Christopher is killed in a road accident. (See Mid-Term Break.)

His family move to a larger farm in nearby Bellaghy.

1957

He goes to Queen's University in Belfast to study English.

1961

Graduates with a First Class Honours Degree.

1962

He first begins to publish poetry while working as a trainee teacher in a secondary school in West Belfast. The headmaster there, the writer Michael McLaverty, introduces him to the poetry of Patrick Kavanagh.

1963

After training as a teacher in St Joseph's Teacher Training College in Belfast, he joins the staff there as a lecturer.

1965

Marries Marie Devlin, a school teacher from Ardboe, County Tyrone.

His first book, Eleven Poems, a pamhlet written for the Queen's University Festival, is published. Mid-Term Break is included.

1965

Death of a Naturalist, his first full collection, is published by Faber and Faber. Digging and Mid-Term Break were included in this award winning volume. It earned him the Somerset Maugham Award and the Geoffrey Faber Prize. The celebrated Irish poet Austin Clarke, reviewing it on Radio Eireann said that unlike most first books, this one is mature and certain in its touch."

1966

He is appointed a lecturer in Modern English Literature at Queen's University, Belfast.

His first son, Michael, is born.

1968

His second son, Christopher, is born.

1969

Dooor into the Dark, his second collection, published by Faber and Faber. It is the Poetry Book Society Choice for the year.

Requiem for the Croppies, written in 1966 on the fiftieth anniversary of the Easter Rising of 1916, is included.

1970

Visiting lecturer at the Berkely campus of the University of California.

1972

Seamus Heaney leaves Belfast and moves south to the Republic of Ireland where he is appointed to the Department of English in the teacher training college, Carysfort College. He lives in Glanmore, County Wicklow.

Wintering Out, his third collection of poems, is published by Faber and Faber.

1973

His daughter, Catherine Ann, is born.

Receives the Denis Devlin Award and the Writer in Residence Award from the American Irish Foundation.

1974

Appointed to the Arts Council of Ireland.

1975

North, his fourth volume, is published by Faber and Faber, winning the E.M. Forster Award and the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize

1976

Appointed Head of English in Carysfort College.

Moves his family from Wicklow to Dublin.

1979

Field Work, his fifth collection, is published by Faber and Faber.

1980

A collection of critical essays, Preoccupations: Selected Prose 1968-1978 is published by Faber and Faber.

His first selection from his poetry, Selected Poems 1965-1975, is also published by Faber and Faber.

1981

He leaves Carysfort College to become a visiting professor of Harvard University in the United States. This allows him to spend eight months at home in return for one term's work at Harvard.

1982

Awarded an honourary doctorate by Queen's University.

Translates the Middle Irish story of Suibhne Gealt in Sweeney Astray.

1984

Elected to the Boylston Chair of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard University, one of the university's most prestigious offices.

Death of his mother, Margaret Kathleen. (Remembered in the poem, Clearances.)

Station Island, his sixth collection of poems, is published by Faber and Faber.

1986

Receives a Litt. D. from Bates College.

Death of his father, Patrick. (Remembered in the poem, Digging and also in the poem Markings.)

1987

The Haw Lantern, his seventh collection of poems, is published by Faber and Faber.

1988

A second collection of critical essays, The Government of the Tongue, is published by Faber and Faber.

1989

Elected Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford, a post he was to hold for five years. This obliges him to deliver three public lectures every year but does not obluge him to live in Oxford.

1990

The Cure at Troy, a play based on Sophocles' Philocetes, is published by Field Day and produced in theatres across Ireland.

1991

Seeing Things , his eight collection of poems, is published by Faber and Faber.

1995

Awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Crediting Poetry: The Nobel Lecture, the speech he made accepting the Nobel Prize, is published by the Gallery Press.

A third collection of critical essays, The Redress of Poetry, is published by Faber and Faber.

1996

The Spirit Level, his ninth collection of poems, is published by Faber and Faber. It wins the Whitbread Poetry Book of the Year Award.

Made a Commandeur de L'Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.

1998

His second selection from his poetry, Opened Ground: Poems 1966-1996, is published by Faber and Faber.

1999

Translates the Old English epic poem, Beowulf. It wins the Whitbread Book of the Year Award.

2001

Electric Light, his tenth collection of poems, is published by Faber and Faber.

2002

His first selection from his critical work, Finders Keepers: Selected Prose 1971-2001, is published by Faber and Faber.

2003

Wins the Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism in Memory of Newton Arvin. The award is the largest annual cash prize for literary criticism in the English language.

2004

The Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry is opened at Queen's University.

Commissioned to mark the centenary of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 2004, The Burial at Thebes, a verse translation of Sophocles' great tragedy, Antigone, is published by Faber and Faber.

2006

District and Circle, his latest collection of poems, is published by Faber and Faber. It is chosen as the Poetry Book Society Choice Summer 2006.

He suffered a stroke from which he recovered in August 2006, but cancelled all public engagements for several months.

2007

District and Circle wins the T. S. Eliot prize. The Poetry Book Society awards the annual T. S. Eliot Prize for 'the best collection of new verse in English first published in the UK or the Republic of Ireland' in any particular year.

District and Circle wins the Irish Times Poetry Now Award for the best collection by an Irish poet in the past year.

2008

The Royal Irish Academy announces the award of the 2008 Cunningham Medal to Nobel Laureate and Academy Member, Dr Seamus Heaney in recognition of his exceptional literary and scholarly distinction and achievement. The Cunningham Medal is presented to him at a special ceremony in Academy House on 28 January 2008.

Seamus Heaney becomes artist of honour in Østermarie, Denmark. Seamus Heaney Stræde was therefore named after him in the center of Bornholm, another green island.

Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney by Dennis O'Driscoll is published by Faber and Faber.

2009
He was presented, in March, with the David Cohen prize for literature, an award which is biennial and for a lifetime's achievement; "...a lovely award," said Heaney in accepting it, "when offered by a panel of such distinguished writers and readers."

Seamus Heaney turned 70 years old on 13 April 2009. To recognize and celebrate this event, Ireland's public service braodcaster RTE, supported by a Lannan Foundation grant, has recorded Heaney reading his entire body of work. These recordings, available in both CD and MP3 formats, are distributed by Faber and Faber in Great Britain in association with RTE (who broadcast the recording in Ireland for 24 hours on the birthday itself). This is the only such complete record of Heaney's work.

The Irish Times produced a special supplement to celebrate his birthday. RTE produced a special television documentary Out of the Marvellous, a fresh and original look at the man and the poet and celebrated the event in numerous radio shows. Many RTE personalities also contributed their own personal responses to his poetry and read from his work.

Translates the Scottish poet Robert Henryson's The Testament of Cresseid and Seven Fables.

2010

Human Chain, his twelfth collection of poems, is published by Faber and Faber in September.

He appears at the Edinburgh International Book Festival In August. He reads at the eight Poetry Prom in Aldeburgh.

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