Seamus Heaney dead at 74
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DUBLIN, Ireland -- Poet Seamus Heaney, the author of more than a dozen collections of poetry, in addition to stage plays and other literary works, died Friday in Dublin. He was 74. The cause of death, The New York Times reports, was complications of a stroke suffered in 2006.
Born in County Derry, in the western part of Northern Ireland, Heaney was acclaimed for his poetry but also penned critical essays and translations of classic works, such as "Beowulf." His poems, whether melancholic or joyful, were always deeply reflective of the people of his homeland. American poet Robert Lowell called Heaney "the most important Irish poet since [W.B] Yeats," the acclaimed writer who died just three months before Heaney was born in 1939.
Attending St. Columb's College in Derry on a scholarship at age 12, Heaney was studying at the school when his brother, Christopher, was killed. He would later pen the poems "Mid-Term Break" and "The Blackbird of Glanmore," which referenced the loss. He worked as a schoolteacher and lecturer in Belfastbut gave up the profession to pursue freelance writing. In 1972, Heaney published the collection "Wintering Out," a phrase that in Northern Ireland means "to see through and survive a crisis." The volume of poetry arrived the same year the violent "Troubles" of Northern Ireland would claim the highest death toll of the long-running conflict.
Throughout the next three decades, Heaney would be, as Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny noted on his passing, "the keeper of our language, our codes, our essence as a people." After being awarded the Nobel Prize in 1995, Heaney traveled the world as a guest lecturer, holding public readings of his work. Following his 2006 stroke, however, his public appearances became less frequent. Heaney is survived by his wife, Marie, and three children, Christopher, Michael and Catherine Ann.