These lectures were delivered by Seamus Heaney while he was Professor of Poetry at Oxford University. In the first of them, Heaney discusses and celebrates poetry's special ability to redress spiritual balance and to function as a counterweight to hostile and oppressive forces in the world. He proceeds to explore how this 'redress' manifests itself in a diverse range of poems and poets, including Christopher Marlowe's 'Hero and Leander', 'The Midnight Court' by the eighteenth-century Irish poet Brian Merriman, John Clare's vernacular writing and Oscar Wilde's 'The Ballad of Reading Gaol'. Several twentieth-century poets are also discussed - W. B. Yeats, Dylan Thomas, Elizabeth Bishop and others - and the whole book constitutes a vivid proof of the claim that 'poetry is strong enough to help'.
Seamus Heaney was born in County Derry in Northern Ireland in 1939. Death of a Naturalist, his first collection of poems, appeared in 1966 and since then he has published poetry, criticism and translations - including Beowulf (1999) - which established him as one of the leading poets of his generation. In 1995 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. District and Circle (2006), his eleventh collection, was awarded the T. S. Eliot Prize. Stepping Stones, a book of interviews conducted by Dennis O'Driscoll, appeared in 2008. In 2009 he received the David Cohen Prize for Literature. His twelfth collection of poetry, Human Chain, was published in 2010.
Seamus Heaney died in Dublin on August 30th, 2013