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Seamus Heaney’s Archive

Writing.ie | Guest Bloggers | Poetic Licence

Kate Dempsey

Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney donated his personal archive to the National Library.

Seamus Heaney in the National Library

Today (If I finish this post before midnight) Seamus Heaney donated his archive to the National Library. According to the director, Fiona Ross, he drove up with his son and unloaded the boxes himself at the back door. There are notebooks given to him as presents from his children when they were small and you can have a look at the workings and crossings out and revisions over and over and maybe just realise that if you keep going, you too…would get better!

The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny gave a very warm address quoting lines of his poems (Seamus’s, not Enda’s) and “Today, this nation and its people’s library are honoured to receive the literary archive of another visionary and patriot.” The beautiful reading room was packed with poets and politician, media and arty people. I saw Phil Coulter, Gerry Adams, Iggy McGovern, Tony Curtis, Michael O’Loughlin, Vanessa O’Loughlin, Brian Keenan, Joe O’Connor, John O’Donnell, Niall MacMonagle, Marita Conlon-McKenna, Joe Woods, Theo Dorgan and Clair Ni Aonghusa. Jimmy Deenihan TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht highlighted the connections between the National Library and Seamus Heaney, making mention of the book of conversations between Dennis O’Driscoll (also present) and Seamus where he described writing poems in the reading room.

Seamus Heaney in the National Library2

There’s a short news item here from the BBC and from RTE, which has the whole speech – well worth a listen. He’s such an eloquent man. He mentions a printing error missing two letters off the word sparkle and completely changing the poem – ‘beetle spark’ just wasn’t the same as ‘beetle sparkle’. A minor point of major significance.

Decluttering in this digital age may become less about paper. It will be interesting to see the archives of tomorrow. Having said that, I hope these notebooks and manuscripts are all scanned and available online.

There was also special recognition his wife Marie had made, not just as the wife but on the board of the National Library.

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