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Seamus Heaney, Nobel Prize-Winning Irish Poet and Playwright, Dies at 74

Born in Northern Ireland, the Nobel laureate resided in Dublin until his death. logo

Seamus Heaney
Seamus Heaney, celebrated Irish poet, translator, lecturer, and playwright, died at a hospital in Dublin on Friday, August 30, following a short illness. He was 74 years old.

The first of nine children, Heaney was born in Northern Ireland on April 13, 1939. In 1957, he moved to Belfast to study English Language at Queen's University Belfast, where he began writing poetry. He went on to win a number of literary prizes for his work, most notably the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature. He was also awarded the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize (1968), the E. M. Forster Award (1975), the PEN Translation Prize (1985), the Golden Wreath of Poetry (2001), the T. S. Eliot Prize (2006), and two Whitbread Prizes (1996 and 1999). Most recently, on June 6, 2012, he was honored with the Lifetime Recognition Award from the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry.

In addition to his career as a poet, Heaney penned a number of translations and plays including The Cure at Troy (1990) — a passage of which was quoted by Vice President Joe Biden at the memorial service for Sean Collier, a campus police officer who was killed during the Boston Marathon bombings — and The Burial at Thebes (2004), which was later adapted as an opera and presented at London's Globe Theatre in 2008.

From 1985-1997, Heaney served as Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard University, and from 1998-2006, he was a Ralph Waldo Emerson Poet in Residence at Harvard. He also held a post as Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford from 1989-1994. Upon receiving the news that he had been named the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995, he is reported to have said, "It's like being a little foothill at the bottom of a mountain range. You hope you just live up to it. It's extraordinary."

Heaney resided in Dublin at the time of his death. He is survived by his wife, Marie, and his children, Christopher, Michael, and Catherine Ann.


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