Born near Castledawson, Co. Derry in 1939, he studied at Queen's University, Belfast. His major poetry collections include Death of a Naturalist (1966), Door Into the Dark (1969), Wintering Out (1972), North (1975), Field Work (1979), Station Island (1984), The Haw Lantern (1987), which won the Whitbread Poetry Award, Seeing Things (1991), Electric Light (2001) and District and Circle (2006). The Spirit Level (1996) and his translation of Beowulf (1999) both won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award. He has published several works of prose and criticism, including Preoccupations (1980), The Government of the Tongue (1988) and The Redress of Poetry (1995). He has done translations of two plays, The Cure at Troy: A Version of Sophocles' Philoctetes (1990) and The Burial at Thebes: A Version of Sophocles' Antigone (2005), and co-edited two selections of poetry with Ted Hughes, The Rattle Bag (1982) and The School Bag (1997). He taught English and poetry at Queen's University and at Harvard University, and was professor of poetry at Oxford University from 1989 to 1994. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995. He was elected Saoi of Aosdána in 1997. He lives in Dublin.
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