Seamus Heaney, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995, was born in 1939 on a farm in Co. Derry, Northern Ireland, the oldest of nine children, to a cattle-dealing father and a mother whose relatives were employed in mills in the Industrial Revolution.
This tension between a rural Gaelic past and industrialization has impacted his work as a poet.
At age 12, Heaney won a scholarship to St. Columb’s, a Catholic boarding school in Derry where he learned Latin, then went on to Queen’s University of Belfast where he studied English language and literature.
He published his first major volume, "Death of a Naturalist," in 1966, a year after his marriage to Marie Devlin.
Since then he has published 11 more volumes, including "North," "Field Work," "Station Island," "The Haw Lantern" and his most recent, 2006’s "District and Circle," as well as three collected editions of poetry and four collections of prose.
Heaney has written two plays, 1990’s "The Cure at Troy" and 2004’s "The Burial at Thebes," and his famed translation of "Beowulf" won the Whitbread Award.
A member of Aosdana, the Irish academy of arts and letters, Heaney was named a Commandeur de L’Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture in 1996.
He has three children with his wife Marie.
Return to Global 100