Irish Poet Seamus Heaney: 1939-2013
Seamus Heaney, one of Ireland’s most esteemed poets and recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize for Literature, has died following a short illness at age 74. Heaney was regarded as the greatest Irish poet since William Butler Yeats, joining Yeats and Samuel Beckett as the only three Irish poets to have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Heaney was born in 1939, the eldest of nine children, in Northern Ireland. He attended Catholic boarding school in Londonderry, Ireland, where bitter conflict between local Catholic and Protest factions served as the inspiration for Heaney’s early poetic material. He released his first collection of poems, Death of a Naturalist, in 1966.
By the time he released his 1975 collection North amidst the peak of Ireland’s civil unrest, Heaney had achieved an almost unheard-of status among modern poets as being both critically lauded and commercially successful. In his later years, he was one of the country’s most significant public figures and a national icon.
Ireland’s Minister for the Arts Jimmy Deenihan praised Heaney has a true national figure. “He was just a very humble, modest man. He was very accessible,” he said. “Anywhere I have ever travelled in the world and you mention poetry and literature and the name of Seamus Heaney comes up immediately.”
Heaney is survived by his wife, Marie, and children, Christopher, Michael and Catherine Ann.
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