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 (Oxford University Press, 1966).
He produced numerous collections of poetry, including Human Chain (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010), District and Circle (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006), Opened Ground (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999), which was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; The Spirit Level (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1996); Selected Poems 1966–1987 (Faber and Faber, 1990); and Sweeney Astray (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1983).
He also wrote several volumes of criticism, including The Redress of Poetry (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1995), and of translation, including Beowulf (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2000), which won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award.
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 seventy-four.