Seamus Heaney was born on April 13, 1939, on a farm in Mossbawn, Ireland, about 30 miles from Belfast. Heaney was educated and received a teacher's certificate in English at St. Joseph's College in Belfast. In 1963 he took a position as a lecturer at St. Joseph's College. Heaney published his first work, Eleven Poems, in 1965. In that same year he married Marie Devlin. Heaney, often being compared to Yeats, is regarded as a very important Irish poet (Pellegrino 1). Much of Heaney's poetry is about Ireland. Some of the poems simply talk about the land of Ireland, while other dig into deeper and more sensitive political issues that Ireland is facing today. Many of Heaney's poems are also filled with images of death and dying. Much of Heaney's poetry centers on his homeland of Ireland and the many people in his life. Heaney also includes many personal experiences and accounts in his poetry. Heaney is also known for the descriptive and direct writing style used in his poetry. Heaney uses a direct writing style and vivid imagery to portray an image of the land, the people, and the issues in Ireland.
In Thomas C. Foster's book, Seamus Heaney, Foster talks about how many of Heaney's works focus on his early life in Ireland. Foster says that what much of the poems about Heaney's "childhood have in common is the sense of safety, of certainty of place, of belonging to a community" (Foster 1). Heaney's poetry also deals with the death that he saw around him. Heaney wrote one of his earliest poems, "Mid-Term Break," at the age of fourteen when his younger brother was killed in an accident. "Mid-Term Break" is one of the few poems that Heaney wrote early is his career that focuses on a specific event in his life. Foster says that this "family tragedy" marks a "poetic right of passage" for Heaney (Foster 3). Foster also states that one of the most "striking" features of Heaney's early work is "the strength of the language" (Foster 12).