Born in Northern Ireland, torn between two different cultures, two languages and two religious and political traditions, he believes in the need to preserve Irish identity and thus he writes poems that are at the same time a 'digging' in search for his own Irish roots and metaphors of the struggle and division of his own country. In 1995 he won the Nobel Prize for literature "for works of Lyrical beauty and ethnic depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past".
The oldest of nine children, the Northern Irish Catholic poet Seamus Heaney was born in 1939 and raised on Mossbawn, the family farm in Country Derry, some 50 km from Belfast, Ulster. His Catholic land was adjoined by a Protestant estate and, as he himself later said, "I was symbolically placed between the marks of English influence and the lure of the native experience, between the 'demesne' and the 'bog'". Unlike most of his family, in 1957 he left the farm. He subsequently studied English Language and Literature at Queen's University, Belfast, and eventually became a university lecturer in English. In 1965 he married Marie Devlin, ho bore him three children. In 1966 he published Death of a Naturalist, his fisrt first book of poetry, which was at once very successful and earned him the Gregory Prize.
In 1972 he moved to Dublin where he still lives. In 1980, together with a group of Irish artists including the playwright Brian Friel, he founded the Field Day Publishing and Theater Company. In 1981 the University of Harvard, Cambridge, Massachusetts, invited him as "Visiting Senior Lecturer" to teach there six months a year. Between 1989 and 1994 he was both Professor of Poetry at Oxford and Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard. In 1995 he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. He is now considered one of the major contemporary Irish poets.
Among his best-known works we have:
- Death of a Naturalist.
- Door into the Dark.
- Wintering Out.
- Bog Poems.
- The Haw Lantern.