Seamus Heaney

© Norman McBeath

(1939–2013)

Born near Castledawson, Co. Derry, Seamus Heaney grew up on a farm in Northern Ireland. A graduate of Queen's University, Belfast, he emerged as a poet while working as a teacher in the mid-1960s. Heaney's poetry collections include: Death of a Naturalist (1966), Door Into the Dark (1969), Wintering Out (1972), North (1975), Field Work (1979), Station Island (1984), The Haw Lantern (1987), which won the Whitbread Poetry Award, Seeing Things (1991), Electric Light (2001) and District and Circle (2006). The Spirit Level (1996) and his translation of Beowulf (1999) both won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award. Heaney has published several works of prose and criticism, including Preoccupations (1980), The Government of the Tongue (1988) and The Redress of Poetry (1995). These writings as well as his poetry are informed by a deep preoccupation with the question of poetry's responsibilities and prerogatives in a world where tensions between a poet and his birthplace are inherited and established. Heaney has also translated two classic plays, The Cure at Troy: A Version of Sophocles' Philoctetes (1990) and The Burial at Thebes: A Version of Sophocles' Antigone (2005), and co-edited two selections of poetry with Ted Hughes, The Rattle Bag (1982) and The School Bag (1997). Heaney taught English and poetry at Queen's University and at Harvard University, and was professor of poetry at Oxford University from 1989 to 1994. In 1995, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature and he was made Commandeur de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture the following year. Heaney was elected Saoi of Aosdána in 1997. Seamus Heaney passed away on 30 August 2013. 

Books
© Fazi

Beowulf

Faber & Faber, 1996

Composed towards the end of the first millennium, the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf is one of the great Northern epics and a classic of European literature. The poem is about encountering the monstrous, defeating it and then having to live on, physically and psychically exposed, in that exhausted aftermath. In his new translation, Seamus Heaney has produced a work which is both true, line by line, to the original poem, and an expression, in its language and music, of something fundamental to his own creative gift.

Translated into

Italian

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© Ediciones Hiperión

Death of a Naturalist

Faber & Faber, 1966

Death of a Naturalist marks the auspicious outset of an acclaimed master. As a first book of poems, it is remarkable for its accurate perceptions and its rich linguistic gifts. On publication in 1966, it won the Cholmondeley Award, the Gregory Award, the Somerset Maugham Award and the Geoffrey Faber Prize.

Translated into

Spanish, Albanian

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© Meulenhoff, 2010

District and Circle

Faber & Faber, 2006

Seamus Heaney's collection starts 'in an age of bare hands and cast iron' and ends 'as the automatic lock / clunks shut' in the eerie new conditions of a menaced twenty-first century. In their haunted, almost visionary clarity, the poems assay the weight and worth of what has been held in the hand and in the memory. But District and Circle, which includes a number of prose poems and translations, offers resistance as the poet gathers his staying powers and stands his ground in the hiding places of love and excited language. With more relish and conviction than ever, Seamus Heaney maintains his trust in the obduracy of workaday realities and the mystery of everyday renewals.

Translated into

Russian, Spanish, Dutch

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© Ugo Guanda Editore

Door into the Dark

Faber & Faber, 1969

Seamus Heaney's Door into the Dark continues a furrow so startlingly opened in his first collection, Death of a Naturalist (1966). With the sensuosness and physicality of language that would become the hallmark of his early writing, these poems depict the author's rural upbringing, from the local forge to the banks of Lough Neagh, concluding in the preserving waters of the bogland and a look ahead to his next book, Wintering Out (1972).

Translated into

Hungarian, Lithuanian, Italian

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© Visor Libros

Electric Light

Faber & Faber, 2001

Electric Light travels widely in time and space, visiting the sites of the classical world, revisiting Heaney's childhood: rural electrification and the light of ancient evenings are reconciled within the orbit of a single lifetime. This is a book about origins (not least the origins of words) and oracles: the places where things start from, the ground of understanding - whether in Arcadia or Anahorish, the sanctuary at Epidaurus or the Bann valley in County Derry.

Translated into

Spanish, Russian

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© Tekst Publishers

Finders Keepers: Selected Prose 1971-2001

Faber & Faber, 2002

Finders Keepers is a gathering of Seamus Heaney's prose of three decades. Whether autobiographical, topical or specifically literary, these essays and lectures circle the central preoccupying questions: 'How should a poet properly live and write? What is his relationship to be to his own voice, his own place, his literary heritage and the contemporary world?' As well as being a selection from the poet's three previous collections of prose (Preoccupations, The Government of the Tongue and The Redress of Poetry), the present volume includes material from The Place of Writing, a series of lectures delivered at Emory University in 1988. Also included are a rich variety of pieces not previously collected in volume form.

Translated into

Russian

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© Visor Libros, 2011

Human Chain

Faber & Faber, 2010

Seamus Heaney’s twelfth collection reflects on memory and loss and on the transformative power of poetry to elicit continuities and solidarities, between tradition and the present, husband and wife, child and parent, then and now. A remarkable sequence entitled 'Route 110' plots the descent into the underworld in the Aeneid against single moments in the arc of a life, from a 1950s adolescence to the birth of the poet’s first grandchild. Other poems display a Virgilian pietas for the dead - friends, neighbours, family - which is yet wholly and movingly vernacular.

Translated into

Spanish

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© Tekst Publishers

Opened Ground: Poems 1966 - 1996

Faber & Faber, 1998

This volume is a much-needed new selection of Seamus Heaney's work, taking account of recent volumes and of the author's work as a translator, and offering a more generous choice from previous volumes. Opened Ground: Poems 1966-1996 comes as close to being a 'Collected Poems' as its author cares to make it. The book concludes with 'Crediting Poetry', the speech with which Seamus Heaney accepted the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature, awarded to him, in the words of the Swedish Academy of Letters, for his 'works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth'.

Translated into

Russian, Ukrainian

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© Fazi

Preoccupations: Selected Prose 1968-1978

Faber & Faber, 1980

Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney's first collection of prose, Preoccupations begins with a vivid account of his early years on his father's farm in Northern Ireland and his coming of age as a student and teacher in Belfast. Subsequent essays include critical work on Gerard Manley Hopkins, William Wordsworth, John Keats, Robert Lowell, William Butler Yeats, John Montague, Patrick Kavanagh, Ted Hughes, Geoffrey Hill, and Philip Larkin.

Translated into

Italian

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© Obcianske Zdurzenie Studna

Seamus Heaney: New Selected Poems 1966-1987

Faber & Faber, 1990

This volume contains a selection of work from each of Seamus Heaney's published books of poetry up to and including the Whitbread prize-winning collection, The Haw Lantern (1987).

Translated into

Albanian, Hungarian, Slovak, Lithuanian

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Kalligram

Seamus Heaney: Selected Poems

Faber & Faber,

Selections of Heaney's poetry have been translated with the assistance of ILE into Polish and Hungarian. The Polish translation appeared in 2009 and includes works from eleven poetry collections, beginning with Death of a Naturalist in 1966 and leading right up to District and Circle published in 2006. The Hungarian volume, published in 2010, spans an equally wide net with poems from thirteen collections and offers readers access to five decades of Heaney's œuvre.

Translated into

Polish, Hungarian

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Volvox Globator

Seeing Things

Faber & Faber, 1991

The title poem of this collection is typical of the whole book. It begins with memories of an actual event, then moves towards the visionary while never relinquishing its feel for the textures and sensations of the world. Translations of Virgil and Homer provide a prelude and a coda where motifs implicit in the earlier lyrics are given direct expression in extended narratives. Journeys to underworlds and otherworlds correspond to the journeys made by poetic language itself.

Translated into

Albanian, Hungarian, Czech, Slovak, Lithuanian

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Carmel Publishing House

Station Island

Faber & Faber, 1984

The title poem from this collection is set on an island that has been a site of pilgrimage in Ireland for over a thousand years. A narrative sequence, it is an autobiographical quest concerned with 'the growth of a poet's mind'. The long poem is preceded by a section of shorter lyrics and leads into a third group of poems in which the poet's voice is at one with the voice of the legendary mad King Sweeney.

Translated into

Hungarian, Hebrew

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Fazi

The Government of the Tongue: The 1986 T. S. Eliot Memorial Lectures

Faber & Faber, 1988

The title, The Government of the Tongue, carries suggestions of both monastic discipline and untrammelled romanticism, and is meant to raise an old question about the rights and status of poetic utterance itself. Should it be governed? Should it be the governor? Seamus Heaney here scrutinizes the work of several poets, British and Irish, American and European, whose work is responsive to such strains and tensions.

Translated into

Italian

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© Rudomino Publishers, 2012

The Haw Lantern

Faber & Faber, 1987

Widely and justly celebrated for his flawless handling of the lyric, Seamus Heaney is here shown venturing into new imaginative territory. Poems exploring the theme of loss, and in particular a sonnet sequence concerning the death of the poet's mother, are joined in The Haw Lantern by meditations on the conscience of the writer and exercises in an allegorical vein that will both surprise and delight the many admirers of his previous work.

Translated into

Italian, Russian

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Fazi

The Redress of Poetry: Oxford Lectures

Faber & Faber, 1995

These lectures were delivered by Seamus Heaney while he was Professor of Poetry at Oxford University. In the first of them, Heaney discusses and celebrates poetry's special ability to redress spiritual balance and to function as a counterweight to hostile and oppressive forces in the world. He proceeds to explore how this 'redress' manifests itself in a diverse range of poems and poets, including Christopher Marlowe's 'Hero and Leander', 'The Midnight Court' by the eighteenth-century Irish poet Brian Merriman, John Clare's vernacular writing and Oscar Wilde's 'The Ballad of Reading Gaol'. Several twentieth-century poets are also discussed - W. B. Yeats, Dylan Thomas, Elizabeth Bishop and others - and the whole book constitutes a vivid proof of the claim that 'poetry is strong enough to help'.

Translated into

German, Italian

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Trilce Ediciones

The Spirit Level

Faber & Faber, 1996

The poems in Seamus Heaney's collection The Spirit Level keep discovering the possibilities of 'a new beginning' in all kinds of subjects and circumstances. What is at stake, in poem after poem, is the chance of buoyancy and balance, physical, spiritual and political. Private memories, classical scenes, humble domestic objects are endowed with talismanic significance, while friends and relatives are invoked for their promise and steadfastness. Throughout the collection, Heaney addresses his concerns, which inevitably include the political situation in his native Northern Ireland, in a poetry that never ceases to be fluid, alert and completely truthful.

Translated into

Albanian, Spanish, Czech

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