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Seamus Heaney was born in 1939 in County Derry in Northern Ireland. Death of a naturalist, his first book, appeared in 1966 and since then he has published poetry, criticism and translations which have established him as one of the leading Poets of his generation.
He was Professor of poetry at Oxford University from 1989 to 1994 (his Oxford lecturers were published as the redress of poetry in 1995) and he taught at Harvard University, where he was the Boylston professor of rhetoric. In 1995 he was awarded the Nobel prize for literature. Seamus Heaney died in the Black-rock Clinic in Dublin on 30 August 2013, aged 74, following a short illness after a fall outside a restaurant in Dublin. His funeral was held in Donnybrook, Dublin, on the morning of 2 September 2013, and he was buried in the evening at his home village of Bellaghy, in the same graveyard as his parents and other family members.
Between my finger and my thumbThe squat pen rests; snug as a gun.
Under my window, a clean rasping soundWhen the spade sinks into gravelly ground:My father, digging.I look down
Till his straining rump among the flowerbedsBends low, comes up twenty years awayStooping in rhythm through potato drillsWhere he was digging.
The course boot nestled on the lug, the shaftAgainst the inside knee was levered family. He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deepTo scatter new potatoes that we pickedLoving their cool hardness in our hands.
By God, the old man could handle a spade.Just like his old man.
My grandfather cut more turf in a dayThan any other man on Toner's bog.Once I carried him milk in a bottleCorked sloppily with paper. He straightened upTo drink it, then fell to right awayNicking and slicing neatly, heaving sodsOver his shoulder, going down and downFor the good turf. Digging.
The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slapOf soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edgeThrough living roots awaken in my head.But I've no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumbThe squat pen rests.I'll dig with it.
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Seamus Heaney Reads His Poem, 'Digging'
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