Tag Archives: Seamus Heaney

Unseen Forces: A Tribute to Seamus Heaney


Saturday 14th September, Martin Harris Centre, Manchester University

A night that should have included a recital by a great Irish poet sadly became a posthumous celebration of the greatest Irish poet to have ever lived, Seamus Heaney.

Upon opening the evening’s recital, Irish poet, Vona Groarke, said: “we have been left in the lea of Heaney,” heavy sentiments which were also echoed by renowned poets, Don Paterson and Paul Muldoon.

Irish poet, Paul Muldoon, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2007, was due to appear at the event alongside Heaney, but instead took to the lectern with the Scottish Forward Prize-winning poet, Don Paterson. The event was part of the 3rd British and Irish Contemporary Poetry Conference, held by The Centre for New Writing at The University of Manchester, in association with the Manchester Literature Festival, 2013.

In 2010, Heaney headlined the Manchester Literature Festival and spoke warmly of his links with the city as it was here that he had some of his earliest works published in a literary magazine set up by Harry Chambers. He also heaped praises on the university’s Centre for New Writing which he said has cultured some of the best Irish poets of recent years.

Paterson began the evening’s recitals acknowledging that, “we cannot disguise the sadness of the situation […] we’re on our own now.” Despite the melancholia surrounding the event, the night was a celebration and reassessment of Seamus Heaney’s work, the sadness and loss of which was reflected in both poets’ choice of poems. Each poet chose poems that tapped into Heaney’s psyche and borrowed from Opened Ground: Poems 1966-1996. They traced Heaney’s upbringing on his parents’ farm at Mossbawn (‘Death of a Naturalist’, ‘Follower’, ‘The Harvest Bow’), Ireland and The Troubles (‘Two Lorries’, ‘A Lough Neagh Sequence’) and ending fittingly with poems associated with peace, such as ‘St Kevin and the Blackbird’ and ‘The Wishing Tree’.

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Seamus Heaney: Journey of The Soul: Manchester Lit Fest 2010

Whitworth Hall, Manchester 25th October 2010 6.30pm (for a full list of his poems recited at this event please see a couple of posts below this one)

For over forty years Seamus Heaney has dug deep with his pen into the psyche of Ulster, exploring cultural identities and Ireland’s troubled past. He has been awarded numerous accolades over the years and added another to his collection earlier this month when his twelfth volume of poetry, Human Chain, was awarded the Forward Prize for best collection. The prestige surrounding a poet of Heaney’s stature was echoed by that of Whitworth Hall itself, and with its neo-Gothic architecture, swooping chandeliers and wood panelling, it’s difficult to think of a venue in Manchester more befitting a former Nobel Laureate.

As he stood at his lectern wearing a sombre charcoal suit, Heaney’s white hair contrasted sharply against an imposing backdrop of grey organ pipes. A lone spotlight shone directly onto his books and it looked almost as though what he was reading from had turned into gold. In his own words, Heaney was about to take his audience on a ‘journey of the soul’ which would recount old and new poems along the way, with his father emerging as a central figure on that journey. Continue reading

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Seamus Heaney – Manchester Literature Festival 2010 – The Poems

The following is a list of the 20 poems recited by Seamus Heaney on 25th October 2010 at Whitworth Hall, Manchester. The list is in order of recitation and The Poplar Tree will be posting a review of the performance at some point tomorrow. Another Poplar Tree review will also be appearing on the Manchester Literature Festival’s blog sometime soon. In the meantime, you can also read The Poplar Tree’s review of his latest collection, Human Chain by scrolling down the blog a bit to the post after Robin Ince’s Bad Book Club.

  1. ‘Had I not been awake’
  2. Personal Helicon
  3. Mossbawn: Sunlight
  4. A Sofa in the Forties
  5. A Constable Calls Continue reading

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Human Chain by Seamus Heaney

Earlier this month, the former Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney was awarded the Forward prize for best collection, in recognition of his twelfth volume of poetry, Human Chain. For over forty years Heaney has dug deep with his pen into the psyche of Ulster, exploring cultural identities and Ireland’s troubled past. But his newest collection has little to recount for the recent troubles in Ireland and instead focuses on the poet’s own mortality which is brought starkly to the fore in poems such as ‘The Baler’ and ‘Chanson d’Aventure’.

Confronting one’s own mortality has caused some of the poems in Human Chain to sound markedly less upbeat than those which appeared in its predecessor, District and Circle. However, as often is the case with Heaney, there is cause for joy and celebration to be found in the darkest of subject matters.

Heaney suffered a stroke in 2006 which left him temporarily paralysed down his left-hand side and the poem ‘Chanson d’Aventure’ details the terrifying incident, along with the horror of realising that he was also paralysed. In the poem, it is the warm touch of his wife’s hands, Marie, that he misses being able to feel the most, but consolingly the couple still have the, “Everything and nothing spoken, / Our eyebeams threaded laser-fast”. Continue reading

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The Manchester Literature Festival unveils its 2010 lineup…

You might have noticed some lyrical and mysterious posters appearing on inconspicuous walls around Manchester – The Poplar Tree has spotted a few in the Northern Quarter – it can now be revealed what they refer to (as if you haven’t already guessed by the above)…The Manchester Literature Festival (MLF) has unveiled its 2010 lineup and it’s bolder and bigger than ever before. Staged between the 14th – 25th October, the MLF promises to showcase unknown and established authors during events such as the Bugged Blog launch, to the ‘World of Moomin’ read by Sophia Jansson. And judging from its stylish new brochure, this year’s festival has something for everyone, young and old, poetry lovers or bookworms alike. Continue reading

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