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His family didn’t have the funds to send him to college, but a scholarship allowed him to attend college and live on campus. He learned Latin and Irish while in school, both of which he would later use in his career. While attending college, Heaney’s brother died. He would later write several poems about his brother’s death.
Heaney moved to the Queen’s University of Belfast in 1957, and majored in English Literature. After graduating in 1961, he went to the St. Joseph’s Teacher Training College where he learned the skills to become a teacher. While completing a placement program at St. Thomas’ Secondary Intermediate School he met Michael MacLaverty. MacLaverty broadened his horizons by showing him poetry of other poets that he’d never read before.
In 1962, Heaney published his first poem. The following year he began working at St. Joseph’s, where he was once a student. He continued writing poems and publishing articles until he joined a salon of other young writers in the area. He eventually met a writer by the name of Marie Devlin and the two married in 1965. That same year he published his first book Eleven Poems and the following year he published a collection of his poems, Death of a Naturalist. The book won several awards.
Over the following years Heaney would work at different schools on a full or part-time basis including the University of California at Berkeley, Queen’s University, and Carysfort College. By the end of 1979 he had published five more poetry collections and moved to the United States where he worked at Harvard. Fordham University and Queen’s University both gave him an honorary doctorate in 1982. He wrote the commencement address for Fordham that same year.
Heaney became the Professor of Poetry in 1989 for the University of Oxford, yet he continued to live in both the United States and Ireland. By the end of the 1990s Heaney had published more collections of his works, toured the world reading his poetry, and witnessed two of his works turned into plays. The Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry opened in 2003. Heaney had a stroke in 2006, which required him to tone back his busy schedule, but he continues to work today.