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Seamus Justin Heaney MRIA (13 April 1939 – 30 August 2013) was an Irish poet, playwright, translator and lecturer, and the recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature. He was born and raised in rural County Derry, which would be a major influence on his work. In the early 1960s he became a lecturer in Belfast after attending university there, and began to publish poetry. Heaney resided in Sandymount, Dublin from 1972 onward.
My audio tribute to Seamus Heaney with music from Iarla Ó Lionáird – Táimse im’ Chodladh:
Heaney became a member of Aosdána when it was formed in 1981 and was elected Saoi in 1997. He was a professor at Harvard from 1981 to 1997 and its Poet in Residence from 1988 to 2006. From 1989 to 1994 he was also the Professor of Poetry at Oxford and in 1996 was made a Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres. Other awards that Heaney received include the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize (1968), the E. M. Forster Award (1975), the PEN Translation Prize (1985), the Golden Wreath of Poetry (2001), T. S. Eliot Prize (2006) and two Whitbread Prizes (1996 and 1999). In 2012, he was awarded the Lifetime Recognition Award from the Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry. Heaney’s literary papers are held by the National Library of Ireland.
Robert Pinsky observed of Heaney, “with his wonderful gift of eye and ear Heaney has the gift of the story-teller”. Robert Lowell called him “the most important Irish poet since Yeats” and many others, including the academic John Sutherland, have echoed the sentiment that he was “the greatest poet of our age”. Upon his death in 2013 The Independent described him as “probably the best-known poet in the world”.