poem index

About this poet

Seamus Heaney was born on April 13, 1939, in Castledawson, County Derry, Northern Ireland. He earned a teacher's certificate in English at St. Joseph's College in Belfast and in 1963 took a position as a lecturer in English at that school. While at St. Joseph's he began to write, joining a poetry workshop with Derek Mahon, Michael Longley, and others under the guidance of Philip Hobsbaum. In 1965 he married Marie Devlin, and the following year he published Death of a Naturalist.

He produced numerous collections of poetry, including Human Chain (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010), District and Circle (Faber and Faber, 2006), Opened Ground (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999), which was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; The Spirit Level (1996); Selected Poems 1966-1987 (1990); and Sweeney Astray (1984).

He also wrote several volumes of criticism, including The Redress of Poetry (1995). Heaney's most recent translation is Beowulf (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2000), which won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award. He is also co-translator, with Stanislaw Baranczak, of Laments: Poems of Jan Kochanowski (1995), and co-author, with Joseph Brodsky and Derek Walcott, of a collection of essays entitled Homage to Robert Frost (1996).

In June of 2012, Heaney was awarded the Lifetime Recognition Award from the Griffin Trust For Excellence in Poetry. He was also a Foreign Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and held the chair of Professor of Poetry at Oxford from 1989 to 1994. In 1995 he received the Nobel Prize in Literature. Heaney was a resident of Dublin from 1976 to 2013. Beginning in 1981 he also spent part of each year teaching at Harvard University, where in 1984 he was elected the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory.

Seamus Heaney passed away in Dublin, Ireland, on August 30, 2013. He was 74.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Human Chain (2010)
District and Circle (2006)
Opened Ground: Selected Poems, 1966–1996 (1999)
The Spirit Level (1996)
The Midnight Verdict (1993)
Seeing Things (1991)
New Selected Poems, 1966–1987 (1990)
The Haw Lantern (1987)
Station Island (1984)
Sweeney Astray: A Version From the Irish (1983)
Poems 1965–1975 (1980)
Field Work (1979)
North (1975)
Wintering Out (1972)
Door into the Dark (1969)
Death of a Naturalist (1966)

Prose

Crediting Poetry: The Nobel Lecture (1996)
Homage to Robert Frost, with Joseph Brodsky and Derek Walcott (1996)
Preoccupations: Selected Prose, 1968–1978 (1980)
The Fire i' the Flint: Reflections on the Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins (1975)
The Government of the Tongue: Selected Prose 1978-1987 (1988)
The Place of Writing (1989)
The Redress of Poetry: Oxford Lectures (1995)

Translation

Beowulf (2000)

Anthology

Laments (1995)

Drama

The Cure at Troy: A Version of Sophocles' Philoctetes (1991)

Anything Can Happen

Seamus Heaney, 1939 - 2013

Anything can happen. You know how Jupiter
Will mostly wait for clouds to gather head
Before he hurls the lightning? Well, just now
He galloped his thunder cart and his horses

Across a clear blue sky. It shook the earth
And the clogged underearth, the River Styx,
The winding streams, the Atlantic shore itself.
Anything can happen, the tallest towers

Be overturned, those in high places daunted,
Those overlooked regarded. Stropped-beak Fortune
Swoops, making the air gasp, tearing the crest off one,
Setting it down bleeding on the next.

Ground gives. The heaven’s weight
Lifts up off Atlas like a kettle-lid.
Capstones shift, nothing resettles right.
Telluric ash and fire-spores boil away.

"Anything Can Happen" from District and Circle by Seamus Heaney. Copyright © 2006 by Seamus Heaney. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on September 5, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney was born on April 13, 1939, in Castledawson, County Derry,

by this poet

poem
After "L'Aquilone" by Giovanni Pascoli (1855-1912)
Air from another life and time and place,
Pale blue heavenly air is supporting
A white wing beating high against the breeze,

And yes, it is a kite! As when one afternoon
All of us there trooped out
Among the briar hedges and stripped