Skip to content

2012 – Seamus Heaney

On June 6, beloved and much decorated Irish poet, translator and playwright Seamus Heaney was honoured with our Lifetime Recognition Award. Seamus Heaney delighted the Griffin Poetry Prize awards ceremony audience with a reading from his selected works.

Robin Roberson pays tribute to Seamus Heaney

Biography of Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney, winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature, was born and educated in Northern Ireland. In the sixties he worked first as a schoolteacher, then in a College of Education and subsequently as a lecturer at Queen’s University. His first three books of poems were written at this time and he came to notice as one of a new generation of poets from Ulster.

In 1972 Heaney moved with his family from Belfast to County Wicklow in the Irish Republic, where his writing deepened and darkened as the northern ‘Troubles’ intensified. After three years as a freelance writer, he resumed work as a lecturer at Carysfort College in Dublin. During this period he published NorthField WorkSweeney Astray, and his essay collection, Preoccupations.

In the 1980s and ’90s, Heaney taught for a term each year at Harvard and served as Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory from 1984 until 1996. During this period, he continued to publish poetry, prose and translations, including Station IslandSeeing ThingsThe Cure at Troy (a version of Sophocles’ Philoctetes) and The Redress of Poetry (lectures given during his years as Professor of Poetry at Oxford, 1889-94). After his resignation from the Boylston Professorship, he retained his relationship with Harvard until 2006 as Ralph Walter Emerson Poet in Residence.

Since the award of the Nobel Prize in Literature – ‘for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth’ – Heaney has published four further volumes of poetry (The Spirit LevelElectric LightDistrict and Circle and, most recently Human Chain) as well as a translation of the Old English epic, Beowulf, and The Burial at Thebes, a translation of Sophocles’ Antigone. An overall view of his work is available in Opened Ground, a volume of his selected poems, and Finders Keepers, Selected Prose 1971-2001.

Heaney is the recipient of many honorary degrees, including ones from Trinity College, Dublin, Oxford University, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stockholm, Coimbra , and the Jagellonian University in Krakow. He is a member of Aosdána, the Irish academy of writers and artists, a fellow of The British Academy and the Royal Irish Academy, a Companion of Literature in The Royal Society of Literature, a foreign member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres in France and an Honorary Member of the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences.

We were deeply saddened at the news of the passing of Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet Seamus Heaney on August 30, 2013. We were honoured and delighted to welcome Heaney to receive our Lifetime Recognition award in the spring of 2012, in an unforgettable visit to that year’s award celebrations that poetry lovers will long cherish.

The experiment of poetry, as far as I am concerned, happens when the poem carries you beyond where you could have reasonably expected to go.

Seamus Heaney in The Guardian

See also