Queen's Commemorate Heaney

Four-day conference features readings and more to mark the late Nobel Prize-winner's 75th birthday

A major commemoration of Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney’s work is being launched at Queen’s University Belfast. The four-day event, which runs from April 10 – 13 and organised by the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry, coincides with Heaney’s 75th birthday and the tenth anniversary of the opening of the Centre.

Heaney was both an undergraduate at Queen’s (1957-61) and a lecturer in the School of English (1963-72). He formed part of the celebrated Belfast Group of poets while living in city – along with the likes of Michael Longley and  Derek Mahon – and went on to become one of Ireland's most cherished writers.

Seamus Heaney: a Conference and Commemoration – the first in a series of activities to mark the late poet's legacy at Queen’s University – will provide an opportunity for an extended discussion both of Heaney's contribution to literature, and of his influence for future generations of poets, critics and general readers.

As well as a full academic programme, the conference will feature a series of readings, two of which are open to the public. These events – which take place in the Ulster Hall on April 10 and the Lyric Theatre on Apri 13 – see some of Northern Ireland's finest poets, including Medbh McGuckian and Michael Longley, read their own work and as well as their favourite Heaney poems.

Speaking ahead of the event, director of the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s University, Professor Ciaran Carson, said: 'This commemoration of the work of Seamus Heaney is unique in that Queen’s University is remembering one of its own.

'His presence at Queen’s was an encouraging force when I was a student here over 40 years ago. At this conference we honour and commemorate his role as a poet whose work has achieved international renown, but we are also remembering him as a teacher, as a critic and as a friend.'

Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness MLA, said: 'Those of us who claim the same native soil as Seamus Heaney can be guilty of a great over-simplification. We find the familiar in his words and images, and too easily settle into the comfort of it, digging, the blacksmith’s forge, the thresher.

'But Seamus is more complex. It is the strange that gives his thought and his poetry power. Seamus walks the ditch between the ordinary and the unusual and this is what made it possible for him to bridge the distances between countries and cultures, and between our era and past civilisations.

'Whether in his work of re-creating great literature in translation, or in his own original compositions, in Seamus Heaney the power of poetry radiates from a place between the familiar and the strange: "It arrives from somewhere beyond", and it takes us somewhere beyond.

'The work of Seamus Heaney will continue to move us deeply and enrich all our lives and this conference and commemoration at Queen’s will be a fitting way to celebrate Seamus Heaney’s contribution to literature and his legacy for future generations of poets.'

Belfast’s Poet Laureate, and Reader in Creative Writing at the Seamus Heaney Centre at the School of English at Queen’s, Sinead Morrissey said: 'The four-day event will look at the impact of all aspects of Seamus Heaney’s writing, most obviously his poetry, but also his work as critic, as translator, as dramatist and as broadcaster. It will have a particular emphasis on assessing his legacy and the lines of his influence running into future generations.'

For further information or to register for Seamus Heaney: a Conference and Commemoration visit the Queen's University website.