BORN: April 13, 1939, County Derry, Northern Ireland
IDENTIFICATION: Contemporary Irish poet acclaimed for his complex meditations upon such universal themes as love, nature, and death and for his penetrating explorations of Irish history and culture.
SIGNIFICANCE: Seamus Heaney published his first book of poetry, Eleven Poems, in 1965 and was still producing important work almost 40 years later. Heaney's poetry encompasses a wide range of themes. His early work describes life on his family's farm and his youthful encounters with the sometimes beautiful, sometimes disturbing, always awe-inspiring natural world. His later poetry engages the seemingly unsolvable problem of violence in Irish life, past and present. Heaney has won numerous awards, including the Nobel Prize for literature (1995). His literary criticism is also held in high regard. Many critics consider Heaney one of the few contemporary poets whose work is likely to be read and studied for centuries to come.