Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 9 to 12
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   9.52

     challenging words:    eliot, exalt, gifted, off-putting, pop-star, self-delighting, understanding, warhorse, yeats, civic, lineage, commemoration, following, lyrical, ceasefire, bestseller
     content words:    Seamus Heaney, Nobel Prize, County Derry, Northern Ireland, Margaret Heaney, Patrick Heaney, Irish Nationalist, Gaelic Football Club, Anahorish Primary School, English Language

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Seamus Heaney
By Jamie Kee

1     Ireland, a country full of rich literary traditions, has produced many gifted writers. Beginning in the 1960s as a young poet with potential, Seamus Heaney has grown into an award-winning poet known world-wide. Heaney, winner of the Nobel Prize, has graced the world with more than forty years of poetry.
2     Heaney, who grew up on his family's cattle farm, was born on April 13, 1939, near County Derry in Northern Ireland. He was the eldest of nine children born to Patrick and Margaret Heaney. His father was a cattle farmer and dealer and was well known at the cattle markets and fairs. His mother was also well known because of her family lineage, the McCann family from Castledawson. The McCann family was more connected to the modern world than the rural economy of Patrick Heaney. Heaney's father was a silent man, while his mother was more willing to speak out. Heaney believed that this contrast later led to a "quarrel with himself" that was evident in his poetry.
3     The Heaney family was raised in the Irish Nationalist tradition and the Catholic faith. Heaney enjoyed playing football for St. Malachy's Gaelic Football Club in Castledawson. He attended school at Anahorish Primary School. At age twelve, he won a scholarship and was able to attend St. Columb's College, a Catholic boarding school, where he surpassed others in English, Irish, and Latin. The family later moved to a larger farm a few miles away in 1953. Sadly, when Heaney was fourteen, he lost his four-year-old brother to a road accident. When he began his writing career, Heaney wrote about the loss of his brother in two poems. In 1957 Heaney traveled to Belfast where he attended Queen's University. He studied English Language and Literature. It was during this time that Heaney began writing. He even published some of his poetry in the university's magazines, Q and Gorgon.
4     Heaney eventually graduated from Queen's University with a First Class Honours degree in 1961. He began teacher training at St. Joseph's Teacher Training College where he trained for two years. After completing his training, Heaney began teaching at St. Thomas's Secondary Intermediate School in Ballymurphy, West Belfast. This was an important time in Heaney's life. He was exposed to many poets and their writings, such as Patrick Kavanagh, Ted Hughes, and Robert Frost. Heaney's poetry started to be published around this time period. His first poem to be published outside of the university setting was Tractors, published in 1962 in the Belfast Telegraph.

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