Thursday, 19 September 2013

Seamus Heaney

For my English Literature GCSE I studied Seamus Heaney, an Irish poet, who shortly became one of my favourite poets. Sadly, Heaney passed away on the 30th August this year, and so I thought I would write a short post on his life and achievements, in memory of the great poet.

Seamus Heaney was born on 13th April 1939. He was an Irish poet, playwright, translator and lecturer. In the early 1960s, Heaney became a lecturer in Belfast after attending university there, and began to publish poetry. Heaney also lived in Sandymount, Dublin from 1972 until his death. He received the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Heaney was a professor at Harvard from 1981 to 1997 and its Poet in Residence from 1988 to 2006. 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.

Heaney died in the Blackrock Clinic in Dublin on 30 August 2013, aged 74, following a short illness. After a fall outside a restaurant in Dublin, he entered hospital the night before his death for a medical procedure but died at 7:30 the following morning before it took place. His funeral was held in Donnybrook, Dublin, on the morning of 2 September 2013, and he was buried in the evening at his home village of Bellaghy, in the same graveyard as his parents, young brother, and other family members. His son Michael revealed at the funeral mass that his father's final words, "Noli timere" (Latin for "do not be afraid") were texted to his wife, Marie, minutes before he died.

A crowd of 81,553 spectators applauded Heaney for three minutes at an All-Ireland Gaelic football semi-final match on September 1. His poetry collections sold out rapidly in Irish bookshops immediately following his death.

Bill Clinton, former President of the United States, said: "Both his stunning work and his life were a gift to the world. His mind, heart, and his uniquely Irish gift for language made him our finest poet of the rhythms of ordinary lives and a powerful voice for peace...His wonderful work, like that of his fellow Irish Nobel Prize winners Shaw, Yeats, and Beckett, will be a lasting gift for all the world." Harvard University issued a statement: "We are fortunate and proud to have counted Seamus Heaney as a revered member of the Harvard family. For us, as for people around the world, he epitomised the poet as a wellspring of humane insight and artful imagination, subtle wisdom and shining grace. We will remember him with deep affection and admiration."

Upon his death, Heaney's books made up two-thirds of the sales of living poets in the UK. His work often deals with the local surroundings of Ireland, particularly in Northern Ireland, where he was born.