(b. 1939) Irish poet
Irish poet, educated at St Columb's College, Derry, and Queen's University, Belfast. After lecturing on poetry at Queen's for six years he moved in 1972 to the Republic of Ireland. His early poetry is rooted in the farmland of his youth, and communicates a strong physical sense of environment with subtlety and economy of words, as in Eleven Poems (1965), Death of a Naturalist (1966), and Door into the Dark (1969). His later work, densely written and often poignant, as in Wintering Out (1972), North (1975), and Field Work (1979), broods on the cultural and historical implications of words and explores their use in wider social and political contexts. Selected Poems, 1965–1975 and Preoccupations (essays and lectures, 1968–1978) appeared in 1980. Station Island (1984), which contains a sequence of poems on Lough Derg and includes a ghostly encounter with J. Joyce, was followed by Sweeney Astray (1984) and The Haw Lantern (1987), which includes a moving sonnet sequence on the death of his mother. In 1989 he was appointed professor of poetry at Oxford. Other volumes include New Selected Poems 1966–87 (1990), Seeing Things (1991), The Spirit Level (1996, Whitbread Book of the Year Award), Electric Light (2001), and District and Circle (2006, T. S. Eliot Prize). The Government of the Tongue, a collection of essays, was published in 1988. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995: his Nobel Lecture, Crediting Poetry (1995), was included in his Collected Poems 1966–96 (1999). His highly praised translation of Beowulf appeared in 1999.