Seamus Heaney Dead at 74

Nobel Prize-winning poet and playwright was a giant of literature

Last Updated: July 16, 2014 @ 3:20 PM

Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney died Friday. The Irish-born author, playwright and translator was 74.

Heaney, who had been called the greatest Irish poet since Yeats by no less an authority than Robert Lowell, died in a Dublin hospital, according to the New York Times.

In poetry collections like "Stations" (1975), "Field Work" (1979) and "Electric Light"(2001), as well as plays like "The Burial at Thebes" (2004), Heaney used literature to examine myriad moral and ethical quandaries. His subject ranged from the sectarian "troubles" in his native country to the foreign policy quagmires of President George W. Bush.

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He was also intensely fixated on the use of language — both in his poetry and his prose — and the history of his medium, devoting time to translating and repurposing everything from Sophocles' plays to "Beowulf."

When Heaney was selected to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995, the committee cited his "works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past."

In a 2009 interview with the Telegraph, Heaney described his process and his approach in almost mystical terms.

“The gift of writing is to be self-forgetful,” he says, “to get a surge of inner life or inner supply or unexpected sense of empowerment, to be afloat, to be out of yourself.”


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