Joseph Brodsky was born in Leningrad on May 24, 1940. He left school at the age of fifteen, taking jobs in a morgue, a mill, a ship's boiler room, and a geological expedition. During this time he taught himself English and Polish and began writing poetry. His first poems appeared mainly in Syntax, a Leningrad underground literary magazine. In 1964, he was tried and sentenced to five years of administrative exile for the charge of parasitism. As a result of intervention by prominent Soviet cultural figures, he was freed in 1965. In 1972, under tremendous pressure from the authorities, he emigrated to the United States. He wrote nine volumes of poetry and several collections of essays. His works include A Part of Speech, To Urania, Watermark, On Grief and Reason, So Forth, and Collected Poems in English. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1987 and was named poet laureate of the United States, the first poet whose native language was not English to achieve this honor. He died of a heart attack on January 28, 1996.
Seamus Heaney was born in Mossbawn, Ireland on April 13, 1939. He received a degree in English from Queen's College in Belfast in 1961. After earning his teacher's certificate in English from St. Joseph's College in Belfast the following year, he took a position at the school as an English teacher. During his time as a teacher at St. Joseph's, he wrote and published work in the university magazine under the pen name Incertus. In 1966, he became an English literature lecturer at Queen's College in Belfast. His first volume of poems, Death of a Naturalist, went on to receive the E.C. Gregory Award, the Cholmondeley Award, the Somerset Maugham Award, and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. After the death of his parents, Heaney published the poetry volumes The Haw Lantern, which includes a sonnet sequence memorializing his mother, and Seeing Things, a collection containing numerous poems for his father. His other works included Field Work, Opened Ground: Poems 1966-1996, and Human Chain. Heaney was a professor at Harvard from 1981 to 1997 and its Poet in Residence from 1988 to 2006. From 1989 to 1994 he was also the Professor of Poetry at Oxford and in 1996 was made a Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres. Other awards that he received include the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize (1968), the E. M. Forster Award (1975), the PEN Translation Prize (1985), the Golden Wreath of Poetry (2001), T. S. Eliot Prize (2006) and two Whitbread Prizes (1996 and 1999). In 2012, he was awarded the Lifetime Recognition Award from the Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry. His literary papers are held by the National Library of Ireland. He died following a short illness on August 30, 2013 at the age of 74. Heaney's last words were in a text to his wife Marie, "Noli timere", which means "Do not be afraid."
George Ames Plimpton was born March 18, 1927. He was educated first at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, and then spent four years at Harvard majoring in English and editing the Harvard Lampoon, followed by two at King's College, Cambridge. Before he left for Cambridge, he served as a tank driver in Italy for the U.S. Army from 1945 through 1948. After graduation, at about 27 years of age, Plimpton went with his friends to Paris. There they founded the Paris Review in 1953 and published poetry and short story writers and did interviews. In the '50s, Plimpton and staff came to New York, where they kept the Review going for half a century. The Review has published over 150 issues. Plimpton also served as a volunteer for Robert Kennedy's 1968 presidential run and was walking in front of him as the candidate was assassinated in the kitchen of a Los Angeles hotel. Plimpton was known as a "participatory journalist". In order to research his books and articles, he quarterbacked in a pre-season NFL game, pitched to several all-stars (retiring Willie Mays and Richie Ashburn) in an exhibition prior to Baseball's 1959 All-Star game, performed as a trapeze artist for the Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers Circus, and fought boxers Archie Moore and Sugar Ray Robinson. Plimpton was alson known by the nickname the Prince of Cameos for the amount of work he did in films, playing small parts and screenwriting. He was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2002. Within a month of the academy induction, the French made him a Chevalier, the Legion of Honor's highest rank. The Guild, an arts organization based on Long Island, gave him a lifetime achievement award. Plimpton was also a member of PEN; the Pyrotechnics Guild International; the National Football League Alumni Association; and the Mayflower Descendants Society. In 2003, Plimpton decided to write his memoirs, signing a $750,000 deal with Little, Brown and Co. Before he could finish, George Plimpton died, on September 26, 2003 of natural causes at the age of 76.Derek Walcott was born on January 23, 1930 in Castries, St. Lucia and was educated at the University of the West Indies. Walcott taught at schools in the Caribbean and wrote features for Public Opinion in Kingston, Jamaica and the Trinidad Guardian. He is the founder of the St. Lucia Arts Guild and a professor at the University of Boston. Walcott became internationally known for his poetry and drama writing in the book, In a Green Night. For his writing, Walcott received a five-year fellowship from the MacArthur Foundation, the Queens Medal for Poetry, and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992. In 2011 he won the T. S. Eliot Prize for his poetry collection, White Egrets.